Career / Career Development

Professional Introvert: An Introvert's Guide To Being A Good Leader

. 5 min read . Written by Sanjana Bhagwat
Professional Introvert: An Introvert's Guide To Being A Good Leader

The archetypes most of us have in mind for an introvert and a leader are like two unmatched pieces of a jigsaw puzzle – one could never fit into the other. However, we’re here to tell you that not only can introverts be leaders; they can make for great leaders as well!

In the first two parts of this series, we broke down all the tips an introvert needs to successfully navigate the workplace, and network like a pro.

In this guide, we’ll be taking you one step ahead in your career journey, and exploring how you can be a good leader when you’re an introvert.

Even when today’s corporate culture seems to consider extroversion a leadership trait in and of itself, we constantly have introverts rising to the occasion, leading like they were born to do it, and breaking this restrictive stereotype.

Right from some of the richest individuals in the world today, like Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Yahoo’s Marissa Mayers, to unforgettable leaders in history like Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Albert Einstein, and Mahatma Gandhi, introverts have always succeeded at being capable leaders.

So, if you’re an introvert, here are a few tips that can help you be a good leader, and – who knows – maybe even join the ranks of these iconic names!

An Introvert’s Guide To Being A Good Leader

Do Not Fake Extroversion – Embrace And Play To Your Strengths

If you’ve found yourself thinking, “leadership doesn’t come naturally to me”, the natural response cannot be to change yourself and adopt the personality of an extrovert.

Good leadership is not just about public speaking, charisma, or constant social interactions.  According to a study of 3 lakh leaders conducted by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, some of the traits of a good leader are:  

  • Displays high integrity and honesty
  • Solves problems and analyses issues
  • Drives for results
  • Builds relationships
  • Displays a strategic perspective
  • Encourages others’ growth  
  • Innovates

These are all traits that introverts not only possess, but can excel at displaying!

Reflect on the qualities you possess that have led to your success so far. Know when you will need to step out of your comfort zone, and when you will need to set boundaries and step into it. Understand your areas of strength as a leader and play to them. For example, are you better at listening than talking? Know that being an attentive listener is just as important a skill as being a good orator. Use your listening skills and patience, in this case, to build trust with your team members, build morale, and identify and solve high-level concerns more quickly.   

Give Yourself Time To Prepare

The preference for ‘alone time’ and directing energy inwards more than outwards, is one of the key indicators of an introvert.

If this holds true for you, use this time with yourself to prepare for the moments when you will have to direct your energy outwards. Your preference for reflection before action can actually lead to better decision-making!

Be it for a team meeting, managing a project, or even just one-on-ones with your team members, give yourself the time and space you need to introspect, reflect on possibilities, and come up with a few solutions.

There will be situations when you will need to react to a developing concern quickly, but don’t always be pressured into making snap decisions. If someone raises a question in a meeting, and you don’t have an answer in that moment, it doesn’t make you any less of a good leader to request some time to think on the matter before getting back to them. Give yourself the space you need to think and prepare.

Write Down Your Ideas

Whether you’re thinking alone or brainstorming as a group, make a habit of writing down your thoughts.

This can help streamline and organise your thoughts in a way that helps you articulate them better to your team. It is also a great visual reminder and encouragement to convey the ideas and thoughts you have when you’re feeling insecure or anxious about sharing them.

Putting your ideas into writing can also allow you to convey them through email or text in a comprehensive and prompt manner, on days when you feel like limiting your interactions.

(Continue reading below.)

Keep Lines Of Communication Open And Be Accessible

It’s important to let your team members know what to expect from you as a leader and respect your boundaries. However, it is just as important to make yourself as accessible to your team as possible without you risking a burnout.

Define a clear process of communication between you and your team members. Maybe you prefer daily meetings with the team within fixed hours. Maybe you prefer fewer meetings but keeping your office doors open through the day for whoever may need you.

Make sure your team members have an easy way to access you whenever they have a question, idea, or concern.  

Create A Proactive Work Environment

A Harvard study found that, while extroverts excelled at leading passive teams, they were far less effective in leading proactive teams, where everyone contributes ideas.

The study found that introverts are much more effective than extroverts in leading proactive teams, as they don’t feel threatened by collaborative input, are more receptive to suggestions, and listen more carefully.

With this in mind, build a proactive work environment as a leader. Make it clear that you are not only comfortable, but also impressed with independent thought and suggestions. Encourage your team to think critically, and be proactive without you needing to micro-manage.

Empower Other Introverts!

Last, but not least, use your personal experiences as an introvert to identify and empower others like you in your team.

It can be easy for introverts to fade into the background in the capitalistic hustle-culture that the corporate world still tends to glorify. Make an effort to draw out the introverts in your team, encourage them to contribute in their own way, and help them in the ways you would have liked your leaders to help you during your journey to the top.

So, follow these tips and build an environment that is as empowering, nurturing, and motivating to the people you lead, as it is for you as a leader!

If you found this article helpful, stick around for more such introverts’ guides to surviving and thriving in your career journey! 

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