While it may seem like the best leaders are social butterflies, research shows that about forty per cent of top-level executives is actually introverts, including Barack Obama and Warren Buffett. In fact, introverted qualities are often highly-sought in leadership roles and can be highly beneficial to the success of an organisation.
Extrovert vs Introvert
Extroversion and introversion are two of the major personality traits that make up who we are, according to several psychological theories. A lot goes into the scientific classification of each trait, but there seem to be commonly-held, yet boiled down, definitions that oversimplify the difference between the two. Many people think that an extrovert is someone who is outgoing and loud while an introvert is shy and timid. These characterisations, however, are misconceptions and are often misleading. In truth, both personality traits hold positive and negative aspects which the majority of the population falls somewhere between the two.
⦁ Extrovert: Extroverts become more energetic and focused when they’re in social situations. This often causes them to seek out groups and meetings to work through problems and stimulate their minds. Contrary to popular belief, however, this doesn’t necessarily mean that all extroverts are loud and dependent on others. They tend to be more dominant and dynamic in work settings.
⦁ Introvert: An introvert is more reserved and inward-facing, focusing on feelings, thought, analysis and mood more than external stimuli. This means that most introverts need alone time to recharge and focus. It certainly doesn’t mean that all introverts are wary of social interaction or timid, but instead, they are detail-oriented and collaborative in the workplace.
Advantages of being an introverted leader
⦁ An analytical, reflective thinking style. Introverts tend to be fact-oriented, analytical and realistic, taking the time needed to produce solutions that are well thought-out and effective. They are often more open-minded to new ideas, a trait that is essential in growing a successful business and maintaining forward-thinking employees.
⦁ Ability to focus and listen. The ability to focus is one of the most important qualities in a leader, and often a quality of introversion. Introverts can focus without succumbing to the constant distractions with which they’re likely faced. This skill is also what makes them good at listening to others and problem-solving, both critical talents when making employees feel valued.
⦁ Observation skills. Since introverts tend to be more reserved than extroverts, they are often better at observing what’s going on around them during social interactions, rather than dominating the conversation. While extroverted leaders might be the life of the party, an introverted leader is likely better at using social activities to notice small but critical details and learn about the individual needs of their employees.
Introverted leaders can use these skills to their leadership advantage by creating a collaborative environment, looking inward to find solutions, and taking time to make the informed decisions that are the best for their company’s success.
How to improve upon your weaknesses
⦁ Meet with your workforce in small groups. Since introverts tend to feel drained after large social gatherings, take the time to develop closer relationships with your employees in small groups of two or three. Not only will the small group sizes make the setting more casual and digestible, but they will also show your investment in your employees. Plus, developing closer relationships with your employees will make socialising less draining. Consider taking the groups out to lunch or creating small projects to complete together in order to foster a collaborative work environment.
⦁ Get more sleep. Sleep can replenish your energy levels and reduce the work-related anxieties that might lower your efficiency or keep you from socialising. Make sure you’re giving yourself at least eight hours of sleep on a comfortable mattress so you’re well-rested and mentally restored each day. Taking care of your exhaustion should help you maintain a productive level of leadership in the office and a positive relationship with your employees.
⦁ Take time to work alone every day. Introverts are most productive when they have the space to think things out on their own. This alone time will energise you, boosting your problem-solving and creative abilities. If you schedule yourself for back-to-back meetings, you’re likely to feel exhausted and short-tempered by the end of the day. Make sure you carve out time in your schedule to sit alone at your desk, even for just a half hour, with as few interruptions as possible.
⦁ Practice speaking in front of a partner. Many people dread speaking publicly, especially introverts, but it’s often unavoidable as a leader. Instead of wasting time worrying about your performance, write your speech ahead of time and practice it in front of someone you trust. Not only will this avoid the common mistakes that come along with improvisation, but it will also help you feel more confident and prepared to address a crowd.
⦁ Recognise your weaknesses. Make self-reflection as one of your career resolutions for 2019 in order to become a more active leader. Take a break if you’re spreading yourself too thin and when you need to spend time alone to recharge. Your ability to be honest with yourself and communicate your needs to others will make you a much more effective and present leader.
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About the author
Kara Hartnett is a content writer based in the health and career fields. She works to enforce the impact of healthy lifestyle choices on productivity in the workplace.