I think there’s this certain stereotype that only the most outgoing, extroverted people can lead a team–that managerial skills are based highly on conversational skills, and if shyer individuals aren’t small talk pros, they might be most useful in a cubicle, working alone on their computers.
I’m here to challenge that.
I’ve had supervisors and mentors who’ve ranged from ask you about your weekend as soon as you walked in and others who you’d have to approach first to converse with. One thing I’ve learned from the variety is how many factors go into being an effective leader. I used to think that it was just how well someone could conduct him/herself in a social setting, but as I observed different leaders more, I realized that becoming one isn’t limited to a certain personality. I think it’s more that certain personality types make for different leaders–for example, I’d hypothesize that extroverts might thrive on making their presence highly known throughout the team, and that leader might take pride in winning their team members over. Conversely, introverts might make less forward appearances in the group, but the members know the leader will lead in times of distress. I think it’s more of a “hands on” vs. “hands off” approach.
I’m an introvert, and I think we have great potential for leadership for different reasons than my extroverted counterparts; here’re a few reasons why I’m sure of it:
- Introverts are natural listeners
We specialize in listening. We enjoy hearing what others have to say, and a lot of the times, we’ll only comment once we’ve formed a fully-formed opinion. It’s not in our personality to constantly interrupt or take over the conversation; this is a great leadership quality because it allows the leader to get a more complete view of his/her team members’ ideas, understand a situation from a variety of perspectives, and allowing the team members to feel heard (I’m going to write a thought on this soon, because I think it’s a vital, but often overlooking quality).
- Introverts spend a lot of their time thinking
As I implied before, we aren’t usually ones to talk extensively until we’ve formed a well-thought-out opinion about the topic. When you hear us monologue, you can be sure that we’ve spent a lot of time debating and assessing the situation. This is a great quality for a leader because you want one who doesn’t take concerns flippantly–you want someone who you know will give a dilemma ample time to think about and give as best of a solution as possible.
- Introverts aren’t concerned with being the center of attention
You don’t have to worry about us trying to steal the spotlight–we’re not naturally ones who enjoy being the center of attention, and I think that’s an excellent leadership quality. It gives the group members time to shine and recognize each others’ value. It’s highly important to realize how skilled your team members are, and when the leader is not forcing him/herself into that light, it indirectly creates that recognition system.
- Introverts are best with one-on-one communication
We’re much more comfortable with one-on-one communication than with group communication. This is an awesome leadership quality because it gives the team members the opportunity to form an individual relationship with the leader and develop a unique relationship with him/her. This can facilitate personal growth and mentorship, and it can prohibit the team member from feeling like just a number or another employee to the leader.
- Introverts like being alone
We find value in spending time in solitude. This is a beneficial leadership quality because it can prevent the leader from becoming overbearing and obnoxiously involved. You also don’t have to worry about us feeling lonely when we’re by ourselves because being alone is sometimes what we look forward to; additionally, you’ll know that when we come out of our offices to visit, we’ll be more energized and ready to socialize or tackle problems. I’d assume that you wouldn’t have to worry about an introvert leader always trying to steal his/her group members’ attention for meaningless topics; we have an intuition for when it’s best for us to stay out of the way. It also gives us this enhances self-awareness (more about that in the next bullet point) and self-control.
- Introverts are self-aware
We know ourselves really well because we spend a lot of our day thinking. We make efforts to understand the roots of our emotions and thought processes. This is an important quality for a leader because, a lot of the time, it leads to heightened emotional maturity and empathy. We can put ourselves in another’s place because we spend so much time thinking and relating our experiences to each other to find trends in our own psychological behavior.
Ultimately, introverts have the potential to make great leaders. Theymre self-aware, they understand when it’s time to leave their team members alone, and they work well with one-on-one communication. Sure, the leading style might differ from an extrovert’s, but, in some cases, a different leadership style (introverted OR extroverted) might prove most suitable.