When people think of a great leader, they often imagine someone commanding and authoritative — in short, an extrovert. But the assumption that only extroverts can make great leaders is misguided; from Bill Gates to Ghandi, self-identified introverts have long been leading their employees and followers effectively, albeit in a quieter manner. In fact, introverts actually have some advantages over extroverts when it comes to employing successful leadership skills; they just have to understand how to harness their introverted “powers” effectively. If you consider yourself an introvert, or you know that you have a few introverts on your team, consider the following factors when it comes to making the most out of introverted leadership.
The old adage “opposites attract” definitely rings true when it comes to introverts and extroverts in the workplace. Often, extroverted leaders can feel threatened by their more outspoken employees and refrain from putting their employees’ ideas into place, even if they’re solid ideas. Introverted leaders, however, are known to be better listeners, and are therefore more likely to listen to, absorb, and act on valuable employee input. While it may be tempting to surround yourself with like-minded introverts, make sure you have a good mix of introverted and extroverted personalities on your team. As an introverted leader, you’re more naturally inclined to support and lift up your more vocal employees and their strong proposals to improve business practices. This is good news for you, your employees, and your business overall.
Introverts are thoughtful decision makers, which is a big plus when it comes to leadership. Introverted leaders are particularly suited to reflecting on their organization’s’ larger missions and goals, instead of focusing solely on the nitty-gritty daily tasks. Outlining a mission, vision, and long term goals — in other words, engaging in strategic planning — is a vital component of a company’s sustained success, but it’s often overlooked by business leaders dealing with the daily grind. As an introverted leader already well suited to reflection, make sure you carve out time to plan effectively for your company’s future.
There is, however, a pitfall to introvert introspection: introverted leaders have a tendency to overthink past decisions and their outcomes, especially if those decisions didn’t lead to success. Introverts also often end up solely blaming themselves for a group mistake or a decision that was out of their hands. While an unwillingness to “pass the buck” is admirable, make sure you’re not dwelling on past mistakes at the expense of your company’s future.
Co-working spaces and open concept offices are all the rage right now, but your office configuration could be sabotaging your efforts to do your best work, or the work efforts of your more introverted employees. While the open office plan with long, shared desks may look sleek, this kind of setup can spell disaster for introverts. Extroverts thrive and feed off of the energy of other people, but introverts need to sneak in some alone time to recharge — and open working spaces make this nearly impossible. To ensure you’re getting the best work out of your more introverted employees (and yourself), create an office environment that caters to the needs of both introverts and extroverts. Think individual offices or cubicles but also plenty of meeting rooms and informal spaces to gather together.
Group collaboration is also big in the business world, and with good reason; working in teams can produce incredible results. But constant group work can be draining for introverts. Make sure your company hasn’t ceded to the “all meetings, all the time” philosophy. Giving yourself and your employees a chance to work on solutions and execution both individually and as a group will provide a chance for both introverts and extroverts to shine in the workplace.
Interested in developing your introverted leadership skills and learning how you can create a workplace culture that’s welcoming to employees no matter where they land on the introversion-extroversion scale? Then get in touch with our expert guides to see how we can help you.