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Introverted Leaders: Seven Tips for Success

Are you an innie or an outie? I’m not talking bellybuttons; I’m talking about your leadership style. Are you an introvert or an extrovert?

Leadership, like personalities, comes in different shapes and sizes. Introversion or extroversion is not about how shy or social you are; it is about how you derive your energy.

An introvert’s essential stimulation, their source of energy, comes from within, from their inner world of thoughts, ideas, and reflections. They direct energy and attention inward and receive energy from reflecting on thoughts, memories, and feelings.

Extroverts get their essential stimulation from the outer world, the world of people and things. They direct their energy and attention outward and receive energy from interacting with people and from taking action.

This week, I’m going to talk about the introverted leader. I’ll cover extroverts next week.

What are you?

Introversion or extroversion is not so much a personality trait as it is a preference for interacting with the world in a way that feels the most comfortable to you. Everybody has both qualities in their personality, the inward and the outward energy, but we do tend to lean consistently one way or the other.

To find out what you are, the Meyers Briggs Type Indicator is the gold standard. You can simply Google Meyers Briggs and you’ll be directed to lots of sources and short tests you can take to learn more about your personality preference.

But a super easy place to start is to simply assess the way you feel about interactions based on the energy explanations above. Ask yourself:

Are you energized by interactions or enervated by them?

Generally speaking, if you are energized by interactions you are an extrovert. If they enervate you, you are an introvert.

Introverts and extroverts in the workplace

It’s all about where you prefer to focus your attention and get your energy. In general, introverts:

  • Are drawn to inner world
  • Prefer written communication
  • Prefer reflection over action—may need time to “process” before taking action
  • Work out ideas by reflecting and thinking, not speaking (as extroverts do)
  • Learn best by reflection
  • Guard thoughts until they are (almost) perfect
  • Are private and contained
  • Defend against external demands
  • Enjoy working alone or with only a few people 

Introverts are really good at paying attention to the infrastructure, conceptualizing problems, and looking deeply into issues.

The leadership difference

The introversion/extroversion personality preference is important to leadership because it directly pertains to how people relate to other people, especially in terms of communication and engaging with others.

Because introverts are more naturally inclined to focus their energies within they sometimes forget the importance of connecting and communicating with others consistently and openly. In a sense, the introverted leader often has to work a little harder on the “people” side of leadership. When people think of leaders, they usually think of extroverts.

Challenges for introverted leaders

Introverts possess many skills that are associated with great leadership. Introverts are associated with deep reflection and a desire to think through decisions. Introverts are naturally disinclined to be in the middle of the fray, so they can provide an outside perspective on what is happening. They are very good at analyzing and assessing. Because they are listening more than talking, introverts can also gain deeper understandings of situations.

By the same token, introverts tend toward isolation; projections of aloofness, snobbery, or disinterest; lack of communication; and lack of engagement.

Here are some specific strategies introverted leaders can utilize to become better leaders:

  1. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Learn to think out aloud. Include others in brainstorming.
  1. Use listening skills to create trust and build rapport. One of the greatest projections people make about introverts is that they are great listeners. Use this to your advantage.
  1. Reflect back what you’ve heard. People want to know that they have been heard.
  1. Involve others and articulate your thinking. Share information freely. Introverts have a habit of delivering full-blown solutions or edicts without articulating the thought process or motivation behind them, so learn to articulate your thinking and involve others.
  1. Be accessible. Engage others substantially. Network!
  1. Followers need to see you. They need to trust and understand you. They need to think you have their best interests at heart. So get out there.
  1. Take care of your solitude. Carve out specific times of solitude for recharging yourself. 

The best leaders

The best leader is not an introvert or an extrovert. The best leader is someone who can inspire, motivate, and enable others to act. Introverts can be great leaders, as long as they use their natural abilities wisely and use strategies to overcome the challenges inherent in their personality preference. Good luck!


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