The assumption that great leaders need to be extroverts has lost ground in recent years, as research demonstrates that introverts have a number of traits which lend themselves to fostering successful leadership. These traits, which show the the power of introverts, include:
- Leading by example
- Exhibiting humility
- Being Self-Driven
- Exercising caution
- Listening to others
Each of these traits and how they contribute to constructive leadership are covered in detail below.
Introverts Lead by Example
Good leadership requires a variety of characteristics, one of which is the ability to lead by example. While introverts may not be inclined to engage in long, attention-grabbing speeches, or to try and make themselves the center of attention, letting their actions speak for them is right up their alley. When it comes to inspiring others, leading by example can, in many cases, be more effective than simply telling people what to do.
When a company’s employees see that managers are ready and willing to get their hands dirty and take part in the day-to-day activities that make up the company’s business, it sends a positive message. Thus, having leaders at a company who are comfortable expending time and effort to work side by side with employees is a valuable asset. Introverts are naturally suited for this role, and if they complement the hands-on approach by overcoming their natural aversion to give speeches it can make them even more valuable leaders.
Introverts Are Comfortable with Humility
Introverts can be just as confident in their abilities as extroverts, but they are, by nature, less inclined to feel the need to broadcast this assessment of their skill to others. The best leaders are those who can listen as well as instruct. This requires a degree of humility that is likely to be common with introverts. By listening to other employees and team members, a leader who is an introvert can better judge the business climate and what needs to be done to motivate employees to excel.
Humility, of course, is more than just listening to others. It also encompasses a general attitude that can be refreshing in interpersonal interaction that can have the following benefits in a leader:
- People who come across as humble tend to make those they interact with comfortable by giving them the feeling that they don’t need to view the conversation as a competition
- Such an approach can be productive when dealing with team members by letting them know that everybody is in this together
- It also avoids the danger of employees feeling that a leader is disrespecting them by speaking down to them
Beyond human interaction, humility is valuable as a spur to learning more about a situation or process. If a person feels that they don’t know everything they need to know in such cases, it can motivate them to attempt to learn more to gain a clearer understanding. This is a valuable trait in a leader, as the more information a leader has about a situation, the better their decisions about it are likely to be.
Introverts Are Self-Driven
Possessing considerable drive is an asset in helping leaders succeed. When times get tough, and things don’t go as planned, a leader must be able to remain committed to achieving the objective. This drive can inspire others to persevere through difficult periods as well, which is why it is such an important leadership trait.
Given that introverts are less susceptible to external stimuli than extroverts, they are likely to be less affected by negative reactions when things don’t go as planned. Their approach is more likely to remain unchanged in such situations. Additionally, if solutions aren’t immediately apparent, introverts are more likely to persist in seeking a solution since they have less need for positive feedback than extroverts.
Introverts typically internalize motivation as a result of their tendency to be more driven by internal stimuli. This trait is especially valuable in leaders working on complex, long-lasting projects. Work on such projects may experience numerous ups and downs before reaching completion.
The concentration and focus required by such projects is best suited to a leader who can resist the urge to become distracted or disenchanted when encountering hurdles. Introverts, with their penchant for internalization, can ride out such stressful periods by staying positive, at least outwardly, and steering the project to eventual success.
Introverts Exercise Caution
While leaders must be bold at times, caution is also a quality that leaders can benefit from. A company that continually takes excessive risks is one that may very well find itself out of business at some point. Extroverts tend to be more sensitive to external rewards, making them more likely to engage in risk-taking behavior.
By contrast, introverts, who are not as driven by external stimuli, are more likely to examine an issue from all sides, giving them a chance to weigh the risk in taking an action against its likely reward. This caution can serve a company well by serving as a check against the desire to take greater risks than are warranted by the potential rewards.
A good leadership team generally is one that has a balance of skills and personalities. A team made up exclusively of risk-taking extroverts is not necessarily ideal, especially if a company operates in an industry where taking on too much risk can lead to a rapid loss of market share or worse.
Adding an introvert or two to a leadership team can pay benefits by balancing out the risk-taking characteristics of the team and putting the company on a viable path to growth without betting the farm on opportunities which become available.
Introverts Are Good Listeners
Because introverts tend to “live” more in their minds than others, they are often, as mentioned earlier, very good listeners. This tendency is aided by the fact that introverts don’t rely as much on external rewards for self-affirmation. As a result, they don’t have as strong a desire to be the center of attention by having others listen to them. This gives them the patience to listen to others at length.
This can not only increase buy-in to a leader’s approach by showing employees that a leader is sincerely interested in their input, but it also gives a leader a better chance to gather valuable information about business conditions from employees.
As a company grows larger, listening to employees becomes an even more valuable means of keeping company leadership acquainted with conditions on the ground, where the nuts and bolts of the company’s business takes place. Companies where leaders don’t regularly listen to employees run the risk of losing touch not only with their employees but with fundamental business trends as well.
Introverts, with their inclination to value listening as much speaking, can use this trait to become excellent leaders, especially at companies where interaction with employees is essential to conducting a company’s business successfully.
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