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  • Writer's pictureMark Samuel

How Introverted Leaders Can Leverage Their Natural Strengths

Being a good leader takes frequent, open communication with your direct reports and supervisors. This can feel draining for self-described introverts, who typically need time to recharge their social batteries.

Leaders who tend toward introversion may be more hesitant to speak up in a group, and they will often listen and process information before speaking. While these traits may seem like obstacles to be overcome by those in leadership upon first glance, such attributes can actually be leveraged and used to a leader’s advantage.

Below, 16 Forbes Coaches Council members shared their best advice to help introverted leaders flourish and thrive while making the most of their natural personalities and behaviors.

1. Find The Advantages To Being Introverted

Embrace being introverted. Find the hidden strengths in being introverted and bring them to life in your leadership. Be aware, though, that leadership is also about getting followers. Communicate often (possibly more often than you prefer) about the direction you’re headed and why the work you do together matters. Last but not least, remember to set aside alone time to reflect and recharge your batteries. - Pernille Hippe Brun, Session

2. Learn More About The Power Of An Introvert

Read the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. It is based on research and provides data and practical examples that can help increase our understanding of introverts—whether that applies to us, a partner, a colleague or leader in the workplace. Whether we are introverts, extroverts or something in the middle, as leaders, if we study and learn more about ourselves, we are also able to learn more about those we lead. - Susan Madsen, Jon M. Huntsman School of Business

3. Develop A Purpose Of Being Of Service

Develop a specific purpose of being of service to your direct reports and to a culture that will drive business success. Define yourself according to the impact you want to create by developing and encouraging others. Engage extroverts in leading celebrations and team activities. Ask others how you can support them even more than you do now. Engage a coach who can guide you into being more strategically extroverted. - Mark Samuel, IMPAQ Corporation

4. Remember That Your Ideas Are Valuable

Some of the classic signs of an introverted leader are quietness and reluctance to share what’s going through their heads. Remember that you might just be starving your team, your organization and the world of your great insights. So, open up and speak up. Your ideas are far more valuable than you can imagine. The next time you’re in a meeting and you have a clear point of view about an issue, voice it. - Vinesh Sukumaran, Vinesh Sukumaran Consulting

5. Develop The Muscle Of Emotional Connection

As an introverted analytic myself, I encourage all introverts to develop the muscle of emotional connection. While enjoying your inner world, recharging quietly, listening deeply and observing much, bring your gifts and leadership to the world. Speak up, speak out and don’t let your brilliance stay inward. The world needs your quiet reflection and amazing insights. Let the world experience the best of you! - Jodie Charlop, Exceleration Partners

6. Help Others Around You Understand Your Introversion

I’ve found some of the best leaders to be introverted. First, own it. Help your team learn how you prefer to be communicated with and help them understand your style. Teach them that you want to process their question, request or topic. Let them know you’ll get back to them in a certain amount of time. And be prepared when you need to exert more energy, knowing that it will drain you and that you will want to recharge. - Teresa Ray, Dr. Teresa Ray

7. Communicate Your Need To Process Information Before Speaking

Introverts naturally take time to observe and listen before offering insights, which is highly respectable and valuable for their teams. However, people may not be accustomed to this style of leadership. When leading teams, it is important to let members know your communication style and to keep the lines of communication open. - Michael Timmes, Insperity

8. Recognize The Positive Aspects Of Being An Introvert

Introverted leaders make great, influential CEOs and public speakers. They are naturally great listeners and can see things from others’ points of view. This skill allows employees to feel heard and respected. Introverted leaders are mindful about their interactions with others, let others shine, and encourage them through recognition. This empowers their teams and audiences, and it increases their performance, efficiency and morale. - Asha Mankowska MA, Your Favorite Business Coach & Consultant

9. Help Your Team Adapt To Your Leadership Style

Being introverted means that you have a strong inner voice. Use that voice to read others and help them adapt to your style. You do not have to change who you are, but you must have enough self-awareness to read the room and adapt. This can be more impactful than projecting a businesslike, larger-than-life aura. Center yourself. Encourage your team members to read one another and adapt. - Devika Das, CORE Executive Presence

10. Focus On Others Instead Of Yourself

The best advice for introverted leaders is to focus on others instead of themselves. If your introverted nature holds you back from being in the limelight, focus on the audience instead of your nerves. If you are uncomfortable talking about yourself, learn better small-talk strategies. Focus on forming relationships with individuals and small groups, and the big groups will be less frightening. - Kelly Tyler Byrnes, Voyage Consulting Group

11. Don’t Close Yourself Off From Opportunities

Give yourself a chance. You can get a lot of energy from outside sources. Be introverted when you charge your batteries and take care of yourself, but don’t close yourself off from opportunities. You can be the best listener and be better than extroverts in talent management because you have your special feature: introversion. - Edyta Kwiatkowska, Leadit, Hana Mana Instytut Szkoleniowo-Rozwojowy

12. Let Others Lead The Conversation

Being introverted does not have to be synonymous with being socially awkward. Introverts can get very good at communication without having to become extroverts. Show interest, listen, and let others do the talking. - Rajeev Shroff, Cupela Consulting

13. Elevate Others Around You And Play To Team Strengths

As an introverted leader, you may feel uncomfortable speaking up in large group meetings or even networking with peers. Use this to your advantage by empowering those you lead to be your voice and build their own connections. One role of a leader is to elevate others; so do this by letting those under you be heard and noticing when they may not have been. - Rakish Rana, The Clear Coach

14. Develop A Quietly Confident Mindset

Leading is not about pretending to be someone else, but rather about understanding who you are inside, what you stand for and what your personality and personal preferences are so that you can actively and intentionally work on expanding your comfort zone and enhancing your behavioral flexibility. If something is rigid, it breaks. Escaping the “personality” trap can help you level up. - Csaba Toth, ICQ Global

15. Use Your Listening And Writing Skills To Your Advantage

Introverted leaders do not always need to pound the table. Use your listening and writing skills to your advantage. Before an important meeting, you can send the agenda and a recap of the last meeting around to get the discussion going. During meetings, volunteer to send a written summary of key issues and conclusions so that you can provide critical input after having time to reflect on the debates. - Kelly Huang, Genesis Advisers

16. Find Your Purpose, Gain Deep Knowledge And Connect With Others

As an intense introvert who developed the skills needed to be a functional, strong and authentic leader, here is what helped me: Finding your purpose and the work aligned with it brings the passion you need to overcome introvert tendencies. Gaining deep knowledge gives you confidence. Connecting with people and caring about why what you do makes it meaningful, so it is no longer a drag. Take time to recharge. - Gowri Ramani, Coach Lumen


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