Introverts do not emerge as leaders as often as extroverts.
Multiple studies over the years have found this, including a 2018 study from the Journal of Personality and Individual Differences.
Why? They tend to speak less than their extroverted peers, and as a result, may seem less engaged. They typically don’t like confrontation, and according to Forbes, those who are loud and aggressive tend to be perceived as confident and strong – typical leadership traits.
However, having an introverted personality doesn’t mean giving up on leadership aspirations.
Some might find it a contradiction that a quiet person can also prove ambitious and aspire to a leadership role. Nothing could be further from the truth. While many associate good leaders with charisma and eloquence, quiet and smart people also have proven just as effective. In fact, several studies have shown that introverted leaders may outperform their extrovert counterparts, including a 2017 study in the Academy of Management Journal, depending on the team dynamics.
Here are some tips for how introverts can become skilled leaders.
Focus on Your Strengths
As an introvert, it’s best to find your strengths and put them to use, rather than trying to act like an extrovert when you are not. Many introverts – because they are not constantly talking – are great observers. That includes not only the situation, but also the behavior of others. They tend to think things through before rushing into speaking or acting, bringing a softer approach to situations.
When a person is observant, he or she is also taking the time to listen to others, which is an essential component of leadership. They carefully consider the viewpoints of everyone on every issue. They also take the time to do the same with complex issues – always with an eye on the big picture for the company. They tend to seek out and keep company with similarly minded people who understand that every task to complete and issue to hurdle are simply steps on the way to a larger goal.
How Introverts Communicate
Most employees prefer one-on-one communication, or at least small groups, when trying to get to the heart of an issue. Introverts excel in this area. Their habit of listening carefully before speaking and carefully observing a situation makes them well-suited for these types of settings.
Another aspect of this is that introverts, unlike many extroverts, are not simply waiting for their chance to speak. By their very nature, introverts want to give space to other people to speak their minds. They give people a chance to demonstrate their knowledge. They also are comfortable seeking the opinion of others.
An introvert’s patience and willingness to listen to others improves their ability to sort through all the facts and opinions and arrive at their own conclusion.
They also don’t mind spending time alone. During this time, they have the chance to quietly think through a decision. This “look before you leap” attitude is another big advantage for introverts. A leader who tends to be impulsive may lead a company in the wrong direction.
Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone
Introverts face other challenges as well. Perhaps the biggest is speaking in front of others, which is unavoidable in a leadership role. Rising to a top position in an organization requires moving outside your comfort zone. It’s important to develop the practice of speaking up at meetings and communicating regularly with managers. Otherwise, it’s easy to develop a reputation as being meek or, even worse, uninterested in what is happening around you.
Socializing is another area where introverts must venture out of their comfort zone. Networking is an important part of a job, and by joining professional organizations or attending conferences, introverts can work on developing these critical skills. These events provide the opportunity to learn more about others you work with, both in your organization and in your industry.
Fortunately, engaging in extraverted behaviors can result in positive emotions, according to a study from the journal Emotion and overall enjoyment, according to a study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, for introverts.
By combining natural skills of an introvert – listening, empathy and thinking before speaking – with at least a small dose of extrovert tendencies, leaders can be successful and create their own leadership style to lead their organizations to the next level.