Being an introvert or extrovert doesn’t necessarily predict success as a leader. While history has confirmed that both personality types can be effective leaders, it is extroverts who typically serve as role models.
I discovered my introverted tendencies at an early age. My father was an introvert so I had a role model that stood in sharp contrast to my more extroverted mother. Both parents taught me life lessons. Each was a loving example to emulate. My current success as a leader has been shaped by their influence.
If you are an extrovert, there is much to be learned from introverted leaders. If you are an introvert, it’s important to identify and develop your leadership skills.
Here are a few lessons I have discovered over the years about how to do that.
- Choose your relationships carefully. Unlike my mother, I can’t become friends with every stranger I meet. In fact, sometimes I don’t even want to encounter new people. Instead, I have learned to spend time with people I respect; people I can trust deeply. In those settings, my introverted nature can thrive and build quality mentoring and coaching relationships.
- Find what you love and pursue it with passion. One of my passions is learning. In my leadership role as a teacher, coach, and facilitator, that hunger to learn comes to life. You might wonder how an introvert can speak in public or spend so much time with people. Here’s the answer. I excel at preparing, possess a great deal of stamina, and set limits for myself. My introversion actually encourages reflection, focus, and persistence. These qualities combine with my passions to help me be effective.
- Listen and ask more questions. Introverts prefer introspection. One way I practice this is by honing my listening skills and asking great questions. I like to process what I am hearing and reflect on the deeper meaning. Many leaders I know love to talk. The sound of their voice seems to affirm their importance. Learn to sit quietly in meetings and listen for what is not being said. Practice reflecting before speaking and you may notice a deeper understanding of the issue.
- Network with a purpose. One of the most challenging tasks for introverted leaders is attending social events where networking is an expectation. I will never enjoy these activities like my extroverted friends, but I can make them work for me. Instead of feeling compelled to meet lots of people, I focus on reconnecting with those I already know and developing at least one new relationship. These more modest goals reward my inclination to value quality above quantity.
One reason I distain labels is because they can easily create myths or perpetuate stereotypes about other people, especially those who are different than ourselves. In my work, I encounter every personality type and have learned to value each of them. I enjoy teaching and coaching everyone to become their best selves, not the false self that others expect of them.
“Our culture made a virtue of living only as extroverts. We discouraged the inner journey, the quest for a center. So we lost our center and have to find it again.” – Anaïs Nin
Our world is a challenging place. If only extroverts have a voice, we will eventually grow weary of all that energy and noise. Perhaps we are already there.
We need introverted leaders to provide calm in the storm, depth to the discussion, and persistence in the face of endless struggle. Who will answer the call?
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