Leaders on the frontline are the ones most commonly talked about but what about those on the sidelines – the ones who lead with quiet confidence?
Enter the Introverted Leader.
Some of the most widely recognized leaders, innovators and influencers in history may have been visible but were uncannily quiet and often misunderstood. People such as: Abraham Lincoln, Bill Gates Mother Theresa, Mahatma Gandhi and Albert Einstein to name just a few.
I recently read three books on this topic (“Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain and “The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength” by Jennifer Kahnweiler) and wanted to share my findings with you and let you draw your own conclusions.
We first need to understand and align on what an introvert is. The most common definition is:
- A shy, reticent person who is predominantly concerned with their own thoughts and feelings rather than with external things. Introversion is one of the major personality traits identified in many theories of personality.
Are You An Introvert Or Just Shy?
Apparently spotting an introvert isn’t as easy as you may think, in fact many people confuse shyness with introversion and they would be incorrect. Susan Cain breaks it down beautifully for us:
- Shyness is the fear of negative judgment, and introversion is a preference for quiet, minimally stimulating environments. For example, Barbra Streisand has an outgoing, larger than life personality, who also battles with a paralyzing case of stage fright: she’s actually a shy extrovert.
More times than not, introverts are wrongfully labeled as shy by extroverts who don’t readily understand how introverts function leaving them to cast them as aloof or weird. When it comes to (self) diagnosing whether you have an introverted personality or not, there a few common signs to look out for:
- Being Around Lots of People Drains Your Energy
- You Enjoy Solitude
- You Have a Small Group of Close Friends
- People Often Describe You as Quiet & May Find It Difficult to Get to Know You
- Too Much Stimulation Leaves You Feeling Distracted and Unfocused
- You Are Very Self-Aware
- You Like to Learn By Watching
- You Are Drawn to Jobs That Involve Independence
Lastly, if you’re now wondering if you are an Extrovert vs. Introvert, then you must read this great Fast Company article which breaks the whole thing down with the support of some lovely diagrams and scientific research.
What Defines An Introvert?
Introverts have all the skills a great leader needs to be successful. They know how to respectfully listen to others, they display poise during times of duress and uncertainty and the tend to be excellent and analyzing situations and making strong decisions. Dr. Sylvia Loehken, best known for her book Quiet Impact: How to be a successful Introvert knows firsthand about being introverted and how to overcome it. In her book, she discusses the following four strengths which introverts embody: The ability to take calculated risks, empathy towards others, acute listening skills and exude a general calmness.
What Makes Introverts Great Leaders
In Jennifer Kahnweiler’s book, she makes a strong case for why introverts make great leaders. She states that these types of individuals do these four things which she calls the “4 P’s Process”: They prepare. They’re present. They push themselves. And they practice.
1. Introverts PREPARE. When addressing their team, giving presentations or networking with colleagues, introverts don’t wing it, Kahnweiler said. “They spend time thinking through their goals and preparing for questions, which gives them an edge.”
2. Introverts are PRESENT. “When introverts are with you, they’re with you,” Kahnweiler said. Because they prepare extensively, they’re able to go with the flow and stay in the present moment. They don’t multitask, instead giving individuals their full attention.
3. Introverts PUSH themselves. Introverted leaders challenge themselves, Kahnweiler said. “They’re conscious about stretching and growing.” They also help their introverted employees push themselves.
4. Introverts PRACTICE. Kahnweiler uses the analogy of injuring your hand and having to use your other hand. “You never write like you do with your dominant hand, but you learn to adjust.” For instance, if public speaking is a challenge for you, practice is what’ll help you move into mastery, according to Kahnweiler.
Final thoughts: It’s pretty easy to see the commonality between the skills introverts embody and the value they bring to leadership in general and at all levels. It can be easy to overlook or dismiss people who may not be the most vocal but that doesn’t mean they don’t have something to say or share.
The floor is yours: What’s the number one quality all leaders should possess?
Please leave your comment below as your insights are greatly appreciated and a learning opportunity for everyone reading this article.
Joshua / www.JoshHMiller.com
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