Introverts and leaders are not mutually exclusive.
In fact, the traits of introverts can make them very effective leaders, especially for certain types of team members. A study led by Francesca Gino, a Harvard Business School professor, found that introverted leaders can be more effective than extroverted leaders when managing a team of extroverted or particularly eager employees.
While most people tend to have introverted or extroverted tendencies, no one is a pure introvert or extrovert. That’s good news, particularly for leaders, who may have to incorporate both types of leadership styles at one time or another.
Whether you are a seasoned executive, or are about to embark upon your first management role, your introverted qualities may be among your greatest leadership assets. An executive coach can help you fine-tune the skills that may come naturally to you, and develop those that may initially feel awkward or unfamiliar.
The Advantages of an Introverted Leader
Introverts can bring many gifts to a leadership role.
For starters, introverts tend to be good listeners. Gino and her colleagues found that, in contrast to extroverted leaders who might be a liability to a company’s performance if their employees are also extroverts, an introverted leader “… is more likely to listen to and process the ideas of an eager team.” In other words, an introverted leader may be better positioned to convert an ambitious team’s thoughts into action than an extroverted leader, who might get caught up in the talk and enthusiasm.
Our executive coaches recommend encouraging members of your team to offer their feedback on a regular basis. Giving employees a chance to provide meaningful input helps increase engagement and workplace satisfaction. If they know that you’ll listen, the dialogue will continue.
Because introverts reflect internally, they are inclined to think before they speak — as opposed to extroverts, who may think out loud and later regret it. As a result, they often exhibit a higher level of emotional intelligence that translates into smoother interpersonal relationships and fairness among a team.
Introverts favor meaningful conversation over small talk because it aligns with their preference for fewer, deeper relationships versus a greater number of shallow acquaintances. As a leader, that translates into someone who enjoys getting to know their team members as individuals. If you are new to a leadership role, you might find it helpful to arrange a short one-on-one meeting with each employee rather than host a large meeting or cocktail party, which might be more draining than productive.
4 Executive Coaching Strategies to Enhance an Introverted Leader’s Performance
- Find time to recharge — One of the biggest differentiators between introverts and extroverts is in their level of sensitivity to stimuli. Contrary to common misconceptions, introverts are not less energized by interaction with others than extroverts, but they may need some time alone afterward to recharge.
- Limit meeting times — Since having time alone to think and process information is very important to introverts, they tend not to do their best thinking in meetings, but rather before and after them. As a leader, you might want to take this into consideration, holding off on making important decisions during a meeting. Another strategy is to avoid filling your day with too many meetings, scheduling time to focus on other tasks that require your attention.
- Prepare for challenging conversations — Confrontations or highly charged discussions may be difficult for introverts. Having tough conversations with underperforming employees or, worse yet, team members whose jobs may be on the line, could be particularly challenging. Because introverts do their best thinking alone, gather your thoughts ahead of time; planning for this type of conversation — without scripting it too closely, allowing for natural flexibility — may help, according to Holly Weeks, author of Failure to Communicate.
- Self-advocate — Another challenge for introverts can be self-promotion, which tends to come more easily to extroverts, who may find themselves landing leadership positions more frequently. Introverts may need to work a little harder to get themselves noticed and to climb the corporate ladder. Whether through written correspondence or in front of large groups, both comfortable platforms for introverts, find the opportunity to showcase your knowledge, talents and skills.
Are you an introvert looking to enhance your leadership potential? At Jody Michael Associates, our executive coaches specialize in helping introverts succeed in management roles. We would welcome the opportunity to talk to you about attending one of our workshops or working individually with one of our certified coaches to take your career to the next level. Contact us today to learn more.
What other strategies have helped you or an introvert you know become a more effective leader?