Introverted Leaders: Pros & Cons

Written by on December 4, 2014

scalesYou seem cool, calm, and collected. People think you’re either very wise or completely oblivious to what is going on, but we both know you aren’t. In a society that values the fast talker, the first to speak, the one holding court at the front of the room, let’s agree that this short-sided point of view misses the gifts of an introverted leader.

Since introverts think before they speak, it stands to reason that most introverted leaders aren’t usually the first to speak up in many situations. Probably the biggest complaint your team has is they don’t know what you’re thinking or they aren’t sure how you feel about a situation. Take someone that is a bit insecure and add reduced feedback, and you might have a potential problem.

If you’re an introverted leader, you have been set up by the extroverts who immediately say whatever is on their minds and are quick to offer feedback. We are conditioned to associate immediate feedback with successful leadership, even though there’s truly no correlation.

I promise I’m not about to try to convince you to start saying everything that comes to mind, but let’s discuss some strategies that can comfort your team and still honor your interaction style.

Your leadership style can seem more empathetic than that of your extroverted counterparts because introverts are usually good listeners. Since you aren’t one to jump in and interrupt, people feel “heard.” Often people will comment about how you really seem interested in understanding their point of view (They don’t need to know that you muted the phone and are doing emails during the call; nor will we mention here that this is actually one of your strategies). Who doesn’t like someone who will listen to all of the “noise” that can happen for the employee?

You can also be relied on to provide well-thought-out responses. There aren’t many off-the-cuff comments coming from you, and your ability to think things through before you deliver any news to the group is one of your true strengths. Being able to filter the information and provide the appropriate comment is comforting and can calm the biggest of storms.

Your need for a little time to reflect and think through a situation lends itself to honoring the time others need as well. Not demanding immediate feedback and giving others the space to process their own thoughts is welcomed by the introverts you serve.

But all of the amazing patience you seem to possess can actually backfire as well. Not providing the feedback can end up looking like you’re withholding essential information from the team, and it might be keeping employees up at night. There’s certainly a balance to the dissemination of information. Too much is an overshare, but too little leaves room for people to make up their own stories, which can be dangerous at best.

Typically, one of the toughest tests for introverted leaders is the demand for on-the-spot answers. Let’s review your “Introvert Miranda Rights.”

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of public opinion. Should you choose to give up this right, you risk unnecessary exposure of the information you provide and the energy you will undoubtedly exert.”

Don’t you love having permission to actually think? I’ll go a step further and say you need to make sure you schedule time to think. Turn off the phone and shut down the email at least once a day. It’s up to you for how long, but using that time to be proactive instead of reactive could be the difference in maintaining your energy level and improving your decision-making.

Excerpt from the Best Selling Book….”What Exceptional Leaders Know”, co-authored with Wally Schmader.

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