Many of us equate loud, brash and even aggressive with success. But in fact, the quiet qualities of a classic introvert can be just the ticket, in a leadership role.
Of the many things a leader does every day, interacting with people is top of the list. If you’re an introvert by nature, many will assume that you won’t want to lead because of the interaction with others that is required.
Those people couldn’t be more wrong. It’s not that introverts don’t like people, it’s that they need to manage their time to get away from constant interaction and recharge. But this is precisely what makes an introvert a good leader: they will actively seek the time to recharge and when they do, a lot of thinking and planning goes on.
By nature, introverts tend to be better thinkers, listeners and they also tend to be more empathetic towards others. All qualities that are essential to good leaders.
Let’s unpack these traits a little more:
A good leader listens
Active listening isn’t something most of us do automatically. We have to consciously work at making sure that we’re really listening to people, not just going through the motions all the while preparing our next statement in our heads!
Introverts are natural listeners because it’s what they’d rather be doing, instead of speaking. That allows them to dive deeper into any issue. After all, there is almost more than what meets the eye (or ear!) when it comes to issues in the workplace. An active listener will pick up on body language and other cues that will give them a more complete view of a situation than someone who is not adept at listening.
For example, if a team member is consistently late, a person who isn’t an active listener might just brush off the issue and demand that the person get their act together ‘or else’. An introvert is more likely to realize that there could be more to the story and look to discover what the problem underlying the chronic tardiness is, if there is a valid one.
This behavior, and the willingness to listen and only speak when they have thoroughly considered their words, reflects a higher tendency towards empathy.
A good leader is empathetic
Hand in hand with active listening is the ability to react appropriately to situations, with a humble, low-key attitude that leads to more meaningful connections with others. While some leaders will develop a tendency to react to problems at face value, introverts are more likely to take a deeper dive into an issue to see if there is more to it and resolution can be found in ways that better serve everyone involved.
This type of problem-solving comes from a place of empathy, which is essential for a happy work environment.
The more knee-jerk reaction of a leader who doesn’t assess a situation with a layer of empathy can often find themselves being described as unkind, impatient and, in general, ineffective at influencing change. Of course, one doesn’t have to be an introvert to lead with empathy, but it is a more natural tendency for people who look beyond the surface as part of the way they think.
A good leader thinks
Introverts have a tendency to think before acting or speaking. It’s in the nature of the way they operate on a day to day basis. This can be confused with being passive and not taking a stand or action. But really, it’s about taking a more measured stand.
With a tendency towards analysis, as they listen and take in a situation, rather than jumping in with both feet, an introverted leader can establish themselves as a person who responds thoughtfully, not reactively.
With measured thought and the resulting actions, an introvert can easily become a very natural influencer, someone whom others willingly follow rather than following out of fear.
All in all, anyone can leverage the natural traits of an introvert in their leadership roles, if they do so with purpose. The lucky ones who come by these traits naturally however, should consider how well placed they are to influence others, achieve productivity and in general lead with purpose.
Related: The Difference Between Leading And Managing