Leaders, on the whole, have been taught to stand out. Part of their cachet lies in their ability to distinguish themselves, whether publicly, or simply in the conference room. As such, the leaders we think of tend to be more extroverted in nature: public-facing, hard-charging, outspoken people who have great ideas and do well to communicate them. This cannot be the only type of leadership, however.
Attributes of the Introverted Leader
More attention is being paid as of late to leaders who tend to be slightly more introverted: leaders who tend to listen longer before speaking; leaders who may not have the pervasive charisma that seems to be emblematic of those at the top.
These types of leaders tend to be stronger at gathering and analyzing information, reading and reviewing said information, and coming to meetings prepared for a more thorough, careful, and thoughtful review of events. Meetings, too, tend to be smaller, as the introverted leader works better on a more intimate basis with his or her colleagues. And much has been said about their ability to lead teams due to their inclination to take into account all members’ ideas and opinions before voicing his or her own.
How can introverted leaders be most effective?
And how can you lead an introvert to do the same? Recognizing the above attributes is an important first step. Given their low inclination to reach out when making decisions, coach them to consult with others to help them avoid being subject to their own biases. Encourage them to meet with others on a one-on-one basis, knowing their preference for smaller meetings. For the introverted leader, real dialogue tends to better stem from small groups than from large meetings.
Balance, too, is an important component. Have an introverted leader pair with extroverts which allows the former an “antenna” into the organization. The extrovert can be a liaison for the introvert in tapping into the network available to them, much like the relationship between a deputy and a leader. They can also help advise the introvert as to communication strategies or help to act as an advocate for initiatives and ideas. Pairing the two helps both individuals augment their strengths and supplement their limitations.
Finally, understand that extroversion and introversion are not fixed attributes but are rather qualities that develop over time. As leaders gain more experience, they may tend toward interiority, becoming interested in operating at a slower speed. This is simply a matter of growing and developing an otherwise underdeveloped tendency. As a leader, play to your strengths; as a coach, help others to do the same.
What tips do you have for introverted leaders?