One of the common misconceptions in business is that in order to be a great leader you must be charismatic and extroverted. While it is true that charismatic individuals can more easily sway others to their way of thinking, studies show that introverts have several advantages when it comes to leadership:
- Introverts are Better at Listening: A leader who listens actually hears and considers the ideas of team members instead of overwhelming everyone with his or her own perspective. This leads to better decision making. Just as important, team members feel more relevant and engaged.
- Introverts ask Great Questions: Introverts like to think deeply, and their curiosity leads them to notice patterns and ask interesting questions, often uncovering issues, trends and opportunities that aren’t apparent on the surface.
- Introverts have a Calm Demeanor: In a chaotic business climate people can easily get frazzled, bouncing off walls handling one crisis after another. The energy of a calm leader can get people to stop, breathe, and focus on what is most important, which improves productivity and reduces stress.
- Introverts can be Empowering: Introverts tend to be more unassuming, not particularly fond of having attention focused on themselves. So, when they have go-getters on their team, they are usually happy to get out of the way and give them the spot-light. When people describe leaders they most admire, they consistently point to those who they felt were sincerely interested in them as opposed to being more “self” absorbed.
- Introverts Apply Deep Knowledge to Decisions: While it is definitely important for leaders to make decisions in a timely manner, introverts, who typically take more time alone to think things through, can consistently produce higher quality decisions and be prepared with contingency plans when new information changes the situation.
Susan Cain has a wonderful Ted Talk on the Power of Introversion that I really like. She doesn’t argue that introverts are better than extroverts, but what she argues is that somehow our society this past century has forgotten to value introversion, which leads many introverts to “pretend” they are more extroverted than they really are, hiding their more quiet characteristics. Her argument is that these characteristics are extremely valuable to the fabric of our society and should be honored as much as the strengths that come with extroversion.
Here is a link to the Ted talk if you’d like to listen to it. I’d love to hear your stories and comments as well!