Are introverts actually the best leaders?
Call it what you will—stereotype, myth, or urban legend—but there’s a widespread idea that extraversion makes you a better leader. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
You don’t need to be extraverted to be a leader. In fact, being an introvert may actually make you more naturally adept for leadership.
According to recent studies reported in the book Introverted Leader: Building On Your Quiet Strength, 40 percent of executives are introverts. It’s time to throw out the idea that your extraverted coworker’s boisterous nature and quick-to-jump-in mentality during meetings has anything to do with effective leadership.
Forgetting being labeled “quiet” or “shy”—here are six reasons why introverts make excellent leaders:
1. Introverts are the masters of preparation. Thoughtfulness, consideration, and careful preparation are values every leader should harness, but for introverts, these essential traits come quite naturally. This is because introverts think before they speak.
For instance, when it comes to speaking engagements or meetings, introverts may be more likely to be dealing with nerves prior to the event. In order to manage their potential stress, they’re far less likely to “wing it” and spend more time preparing their notes. This makes them more effective speakers.
2. They use silence to their advantage. Another invaluable traits that accompanies thinking before you speak is the increased ability to listen. The silence upon which introverts thrive offers the perfect platform for more easily tuning in to coworkers, team members, and the overall workplace environment. A mix of careful listening and preparation means introverts are likely to provide excellent and thoughtful feedback, guidance, ideas, etc.
3. Solitude can be empowering. Breaking away from the chatter means spending more time focusing on the big picture. Rather than being distracted by conversations and unimportant details, introverts strive to find focus. Instead of avoiding solitude and quiet time like many extraverts, introverts need both to recharge. They know how, when, and where to get in “the zone” and get things done. This means more time spent working on meaningful tasks. Embracing solitude can also be powerful when it comes to transformational leadership styles in which modeling successful traits—like spending more time thinking things through quietly in your office—is essential to company-wide change.
4. Introverts display calmness. Leaders displaying a calm sense of confidence can do wonders for an organization. When times get tough or a crisis emerges, there’s nothing more problematic than a high-stress, high-anxiety leader calling the shots. Introverts both naturally exude and thrive on calmness. Their careful, calculated, and calm actions are not only more beneficial for reassuring an organization or team, but also for generating the same type of mentality of calmness in others.
5. They would rather show than tell. Some of the best leaders are also the most effective teachers. And when it comes to educating employees and teams, showing is far more effective than telling. Rather than simply telling a room of employees how to accomplish a task to their liking, introverts are more likely to actually get their hands dirty and show them a great example.
6. Introverts challenge themselves. Because introverts spend a lot of time reflecting, they’re more likely to be conscious of areas where they need to improve. This type of focus and awareness is absolutely essential to the growth of a leader and their team. This willingness to challenge oneself will inspire followers to do the same by assessing themselves, their coworkers, and the team as a whole as a way to improve.
Great leadership does not require an extraverted personality. Use these lessons to help you do more as an introverted leader, even if you’re not in a management position.
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Ilya Pozin is a father, husband and founder of Open Me, a social greeting card company. Named one of Inc.’s ‘30 Under 30’ entrepreneurs, he’s made a career as a mentor, investor, and workplace productivity and leadership enthusiast. Ilya is also an avid writer, with his columns appearing on Inc., Forbes and LinkedIn. Originally from Russia, he currently resides in L.A. with his wife and two daughters. You can keep up with Ilya on Twitter.