As many of you might already know, I’m a card-carrying introvert. Traits associated with being an introvert, such as great listening skills, can be beneficial when in a leadership role. Many of the most famous leaders in history are introverts including Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Rosa Parks, Bill Gates, Barack Obama, and Steven Spielberg.
I recently was on Forbes.com and came across a list of management tips for introverted leaders. The list was compiled by members of the Forbes Coaches Council and contains excellent leadership advice for how to channel your strengths as an introverted leader.
1. Build Genuine Relationships with Your People
You don’t have to be outgoing in order to influence people. People desire to follow leaders who have empathy and intellect. The difference is that introverts tend to more easily display these qualities in one on one situations. For that reason, it’s important to build relationships with each team member.
2. Be an Active Listener
The ability to actively listen and understand can sometimes me more powerful than the ability to be a great speaker.
3. Use Your Listening and Problem-Solving Skills to Your Advantage
Introverts tend to be very good listeners and can often easily discern the real issue behind conversations involving conflict or concern. Their ability to sit back and take it all in, just listening, often lends to a very objective perspective.
4. Encourage Offline Brainstorming
Often times extroverts can take over a creative brainstorming meeting. They get very excited and vocal about their ideas. Introverts, on the other hand, will tend to sit back and need time to think about it and review other ideas. As a leader, be sure to give that time offline.
5. Ask Questions
Ask open-ended questions and let others do the talking. Team members benefit by sharing ideas, and the introverted leader benefits by being able to sit back and listen to all the ideas and communicate back to the team the main messages they are hearing.
6. Set Boundaries for Your Time
Being in constant meetings or social settings is exhausting for introverts. If you are an introverted leader, set limits on your time so that you have ample downtime to decompress.
7. Take Control of Your Team’s Perceptions of You
To avoid unwanted assumptions, let your team know you tend to be more introverted and are quiet. Let them know that your style is to sit back and listen and that it doesn’t mean that you are disengaged in the conversation.
8. Know When to Venture Outside Your Comfort Zone
As introverted as you may be, it’s always important to venture outside of your comfort zone from time to time. As a leader you will be required to address a large room, attend a networking event, or perhaps take charge in a negotiation where sitting back could hurt you.
I especially love that last one, and I’ve had to do it often. I speak at our conferences and attend many outside events. As I often say, “I’m an introvert who plays an extrovert in my job.”
Are you an introvert? I’d love to hear ways in which you’ve utilized your strengths as an introvert in leadership or had to reach outside your own comfort zone. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.