Introverts as Leaders

There are often common misperceptions about the meaning of the term “introvert”.  I hear people referring to a quiet and shy person as an introvert, failing to recognize that introversion and extroversion are measures of energy lost or energy gained by interacting with people.
For example, you can have two leaders who, through the course of their day, may interact with the exact same number of people, both can be equally energetic and outgoing, high-energy and personable, but at the end of the day the extrovert will want to go out for drinks with more people and the introvert will need some alone time.
We don’t often think of leadership in terms of introversion, however many charismatic leaders actually ARE introverts.   Jennifer Kahnweiler wrote an article in Forbes about why introverts make some of the best leaders. Here are a few excerpts, and you can read the entire article here.
“It has been reported that a full 40% of executives describe themselves as introverts, including Microsoft‘s Bill Gates, the über-investors Warren Buffett and Charles Schwab, Avon’s chief executive, Andrea Jung, and the late publishing giant Katharine Graham.”
“Introverted leaders think before they speak. Even in casual conversations, they consider others’ comments carefully, and they stop and reflect before responding.”
“Learning by listening, not talking, is a trait that introverts consistently demonstrate.”
“Introverted leaders seek depth over breadth. They like to dig deep, delving into issues and ideas before moving on to new ones. They are drawn to meaningful conversations, not superficial chitchat, and they know how to ask great questions and really listen to the answers.”
“In times of crisis, they project a reassuring, calm confidence–think President Obama–and they speak softly and slowly regardless of the heat of the conversation or circumstances. Whenever they get ready for a meeting, a speech or a special event, their secret to success can be summed up in one word: preparation.”
“Introverted leaders are energized by spending time alone. They suffer from people exhaustion and need to retreat to recharge their batteries frequently. These regular timeouts actually fuel their thinking, creativity and decision-making and, when the pressure is on, help them be responsive, not reactive. When introverts honor that inner pull, they can do their best work. In managing interruptions, they also manage people’s expectations.”
Full article here
There’s a video you can watch on introverts and extroverts in business development here:

Comments (5)

Suzi – Thank you so much for commenting and sharing my Forbes piece. I think that most of us who do coaching see introverts as the “hidden gems” in organizations. I am glad to learn about you and your work. Thanks again.

As an introvert I also find that we let our actions talk for ourselves. Our achievements are the star of the show, not us.
Thanks for reminding us that there is no good nor bad trait, as far as we embrace our uniqueness.

Thank you so much for this article. I have been a lot lately about writing an article about introverts and marketing in an extroverted world. In addition, this was a great conversation point last night at my networking group meeting. Thanks again.

Suzi, thanks for the post. I think people may even believe that “introvert” and “leader” are mutually exclusive. that You really hit the nail on the head about the other common misconception – the belief that introverts are hanging out in an ivory tower somewhere by themselves and not interacting with people!

Jennifer — I LOVED your article and also your blog, which has great resources and articles on this subject. I totally agree with you about the hidden gems…in fact, many introverts in organizations have been made to feel more of the “hidden” than the “gem” and that’s such a loss to the organization!
Seb — I wonder if other brilliant artists such as yourself are also introverted? Is there a correlation? I think there is huge creative potential for those who lead organizations to tap into by realizing how to engage their introverts.
Brenda — Thank you for your comment! I’m glad the topic found its way into your networking meeting, because it is a very important topic!
Sue — You are so right! By virtue of their introversion, most introverts are not going to go shouting from the rooftops about the strengths that introversion affords them. It’s up to the extroverts in the organization to NOT dominate every conversation and seek to engage the introverts precisely because of the strengths they bring!

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