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Leading as an Introvert: Show them What You’ve Got

An “introverted leader” sounds almost like an oxymoron. When we think of the traits and habits that are most often associated with leadership (being outgoing, a successful networker and an exemplar of teamwork), it seems impossible for a leader to be an introvert. This is, unfortunately, an all-too-common misconception that could be potentially devastating to organizations. They could be overlooking excellent candidates for leadership positions simply because those individuals seem to be too introverted.

Here are a few reasons why introverts, contrary to popular belief, make great leaders. We’ve also included a few tips that are sure to help you, whether you’re an introvert looking to prove yourself as a capable leader, or a manager looking to better understand the capabilities of your team.

Don’t Stress About Weaknesses; Use Your Strengths

A commonly claimed weakness of introverts is their reluctance to interact with others in large group settings. To many, this translates to mean that introverts would struggle with the interaction necessary to be a successful team member in most workplace environments. This does not have to be the case. While an introvert may struggle with or simply dislike large group settings, many consequently excel in smaller, person-to-person interactions, even surpassing their extroverted peers.

If you’re someone who prefers to avoid large-scale interactions, try supplementing them with consistent habits and rituals of communication with smaller components of your organization. If these meetings are just as effective as a large team meeting, there is no reason they can’t continue as the new workplace norm. They may even be more effective, as the resulting deepening of workplace relationships can only be a boon to trust and teamwork.

Be the Model

As a leader, your outlook and habits set the tone for the whole of your team and their work. If a team is mostly composed of fast-thinking, fast-acting extroverts, they may actually benefit greatly from having a more introverted leader who can provide perspective to the table that they might not otherwise have.

For instance, many introverts prefer to carefully analyze a problem and fully consider their options before coming to a decision. While a fast-paced work environment demands speed, it also demands accuracy, with little time available for making mistakes.

If your team has met an unexpected roadblock or needs an out-of-the-box solution, take a play out of the introvert’s playbook and encourage some quiet time away from the problem for individual reflection. By slowing things down, your rapid-fire team may come to solutions they would otherwise have never thought of.

Don’t Run from Who You Are

If you are an introvert, don’t feel ashamed to admit it, especially to those you are working with. Because of the current dominating culture in the professional world, you may feel compelled to deny being an introverted person, or even feel ashamed for it.

If this is the case, remember that “introvert” doesn’t have to be a label used to define you and your capabilities. Instead, accept it as a description for how you best recharge your battery. While others might feel refreshed after an exhausting work week by having a large get together, you prefer to bounce back by taking some quiet time alone. This has no bearing on whether or not you are a capable worker or leader.

On the other hand, by constantly pretending to be someone you aren’t at work, or by shaming yourself for being who you are, you will start to wear yourself down and negatively impact your performance.

Be open with your team about your tendencies and preferences for interaction. For example, by letting someone know that if you seem disengaged during their presentation it is because you are thinking hard and trying your best to understand what they are saying, they will appreciate knowing that you value their input and are invested in their efforts.

By showing honesty and self-awareness, you’ll encourage others to do the same, thus strengthening the trust within your team.

For more content, career resources and training, be sure to check out our NextGen Summit in 2020. GovLoop, Young Government Leaders and hundreds of public servants will come together on Wednesday, July 22-23, 2020, at the Marriott Marquis Downtown DC Hotel for two days of training and leadership opportunities, innovating and networking. Will we see you there? 

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James Abyad

It’s funny to me that it’s introverts themselves that usually have to be convinced of these facts and of their strengths. As an extreme extrovert, I often feel I have to be the biggest champion of my introvert friends and colleagues so they clearly see the value they bring, and really how cool they are!

Avatar photo Blake Martin

Great blog, Zack! Introverted doesn’t have to be a weakness, and as you noted, it’s a great chance to model your team after a leader with a different, more introverted perspective.