Leadership tips for introverts

Introverts have a certain skill set that can help make them effective leaders. Here’s how to play to those strengths in the workplace 
by Bethan Rees 

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, an introvert is “someone who is shy, quiet, and prefers to spend time alone rather than often being with other people”. In the business world, some might think that an extrovert (defined in the Cambridge Dictionary as an energetic happy person who enjoys being with other people) has more of the qualities associated with leadership, but introverts have leadership strengths too. They’re just different.
ListenIntroverts are often good listeners, according to Lynda Foster, CEO of Cortex Leadership Consulting. She is quoted in a Forbes article, saying that introverts can put together “themes of conversations well and can identify the real issue or the highest level concern”. This ability to prioritise helps keep teams productive and on track to reach their goals. 
Keep it small Introverts tend to thrive socially in low-key group situations, rather than big, loud crowds. In an article for Entrepreneur, writer Nina Zipkin quotes Lisa Petrilli, author of The introvert’s guide to success in business and leadership, who advises that introverts should make the most of this skill and schedule meetings with employees one-on-one for ideas and direction. 

Susan Cain, author of Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking, explains in her TEDTalk in 2012 that introverts work better in small groups. She says that they should use this knowledge to empower themselves, maximising their talents in this type of setting.
Recharge for power Introverts can spend a lot of time with their own thoughts and this can be an important part of their strength. According to Scott Christ for life tips site Lifehack, recharging and reflecting should be done every day. “Find somewhere quiet to sit down and just breathe,” he advises introverts. “Let the thoughts flow through your head like clouds. And when you’re done, jot down any new ideas that came to mind.”

Lou Solomon, a leadership coach and CEO and founder of Interact, a firm dedicated to helping people communicate better, is quoted in Zipkin's article for Entrepreneur. She suggests that introverts should figure out when the most restorative time of day is for them. “Make that time for yourself a part of your regular routine and incorporate it into your work schedule,” she advises. “It could also help develop a culture where your fellow introverts and even the office extroverts feel comfortable to follow suit. You may want to think about setting up a quiet room in the office.”

Christ also recommends that if someone is better at writing than speaking out loud, then use this to help become an effective leader. He advocates leaving an audience, whether that’s from a meeting or conference, with something to think about. “Create a simple one- or two-page document summing up your salient points, answering anticipated questions and objections, and offering to answer any additional questions,” he suggests. 
Lose the labelDon’t let being an introvert stand in your way of being a great leader and the opportunities this brings with it in the workplace. A Forbes article quotes Larry Boyer, founder of career management and coaching company Success Rockets, who says that this is the biggest thing holding introverted leaders back. “Forget the label”, he says, and understand that you wouldn’t be in the leadership position if others weren’t confident in you.

Seen a blog, news story or discussion online that you think might interest CISI members? Email bethan.rees@wardour.co.uk.
Published: 22 Feb 2019
  • Career Development
  • The Review
  • leadership
  • introverts
  • Career advice

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