I get asked this one question about quiet leaders all the time. It’s really the #1 question so I’m guessing you’ve heard it or may be wondering about it too since you’re here. Ok, actually there are two questions. The first one is, “Do introverts make good leaders?” The second one is “Can I lead if I’m an introvert?”
I love these questions because it’s truly an easy answer. The answer is YES! Absolutely YES!
Not only do the studies show that it’s true, I know it from my own experience as an introverted leader.
So then, what’s the mistake that will cost you time and money?
Waiting and wondering….delaying and questioning….and doubting yourself. It’s like pushing a boulder uphill when you do this to yourself and it’s so darn unnecessary.
If you are interested in the research you can read about it in depth in a number of places. Adam Grant at Wharton School of Management did a study on this. Jim Collins wrote about it in his book ‘Good To Great’ and Susan Cain; Author of ‘Quiet’, covers it extensively as well. If you haven’t read Susan’s book yet, get it. It will change your life.
Quiet Leaders – those who get described as understated, mild mannered, soft spoken, gracious, humble, self effacing, reserved and reflective produce some of the best results.
Doesn’t matter if you are leading inside of a company or running your own business and leading a team. Do these leaders have charisma? Possibly. Sometimes they do. I know – now you might be thinking that’s the difference and you don’t have charisma.
First, it’s not always the case, and second – you can learn charisma if that‘s all you need. That’s a learned skill too, along with other aspects of Leadership – some that you already have and others that you can learn or enhance. I’ll be writing about it all here on this blog.
But, really, here’s the thing. Don’t listen to the wrong message – whether it’s your own inner critic or the voice of others that tells you that you’re not ready, not up for the job, etc. All of that is illusion, myth, and misinformation. Don’t believe it.
Here’s what you need to do right now.
1. Figure out if you’re truly an introvert. You probably are if you found your way to this site and are still reading this.
You can figure it out by answering the 10 questions below for a generalization and to see if some, or all of these ideas, ring true for you.
Or, email me directly about it at [email protected] You can also contact me through this site for the official Myers Briggs personality assessment (MBTI).
Okay, here’s the 10 questions:
1. It’s my preference to put my thoughts to others in writing.
2. I’m not fond of small talk, but I enjoy an in depth discussion about a topic that matters to me.
3. I opt for one-on-one conversations rather than group activities when I have a choice.
4. I seek and enjoy solitude.
5. I tend to think before I speak as opposed to while I speak.
6. I enjoy celebrating my birthday on a smaller scale with only a few close friends or family members.
7. I dislike conflict.
8. I prefer not to show or discuss my work with others before it’s complete.
9. I often prefer to let calls go to voicemail.
10. I feel drained or tired after being with larger groups even if I enjoyed myself.
2. Identify your strengths and get conscious about them so you can use them. Really use them. So many natural leadership strengths are common to introvert leaders. We’ll explore them here in upcoming posts.
3. Figure out what, where, and how you want to lead and keep learning to improve your skills. Leadership is art and science. Identify and go for opportunities. Reflect and strategize. Don’t give up; take action.
Look, one third to one half of the population is introverted. We need your style too. And think about it. If all the introverts are holding back, that means we are mostly led by extroverts?
We need to balance. Not to say there is anything wrong with extrovert leaders, but we need the balance and skills of introverts in leadership roles too.
How do I know? Because I’ve been there. 24 years of leadership in 4 industries. And, yes, by the way, I received those messages too. ‘You’re too quiet’, ‘Speak up’, ‘Participate more’, ‘Lighten up’, ‘Are you ok?’, ‘What do you mean you’re not coming to happy hour with us?’, etc. Meanwhile, I was watching, noticing, listening, thinking, assessing, strategizing, etc. Quiet on the outside, rarely on the inside.
No shortage of ideas, thoughts, plans, strategy.
I studied management in college and I loved it. For me it was all about understanding people and winning in business as a direct result of seeking to understand the team and the business model. I knew I wanted to lead. My challenge was that I was often under-estimated, but in reality I was leading with great results. Sometimes I got credit for it and sometimes I didn’t. I just kept going. What I lacked most of all in the early years was confidence, but I made up for it in stick-to-it-iveness and an ability to out-innovate many of my peers.
I’ve always preferred to lead….with integrity, with authentic connection, with innovation, with confidence. I spun my wheels for the first few years (yes, I learned a lot and developed my leadership style), but really figured it out when life threw a curve ball.
The curve ball….my husband got sick. Really sick. We had just moved with our three year old daughter from San Diego, California to Phoenix, Arizona. Our two-income household became a one-income household. It was up to me.
I needed to double my salary to replace his. He had four heart surgeries and I knew he’d be healing and regaining his strength for a while. So, I leveraged all my skills and strategy as a leader, got out of my comfort zone, took some calculated risks, changed industries and quadrupled my salary.
After this, my phone was ringing with opportunities to lead.
Did it happen over night? Not exactly, but it didn’t take that long either once I made the decision to go for it. I went for a promotion, asked for a raise, took a new position, went for bigger roles, negotiated starting salaries, got promoted further, switched industries, led with integrity and heart everywhere I went and jumped from $60K to $240K in a few short years.
Oh….and my husband got healthy and happily became an awesome Stay-At- Home-Dad to our daughter and a caregiver/companion to his elderly father. This became our new normal. If I’d stayed in my comfort zone early on, it never would’ve happened.
But, really, here’s my point. Don’t wait. No need for a crisis to motivate you. I’ve had a blast as a leader and loved the teams I worked with and together we made great things happen.
Even if you don’t know it yet for yourself; I know you can do it if you want to. Leading isn’t for everyone. It’s a mindset and it gets in your blood. Not everyone wants to lead, but if you do – let’s get busy. And, if I can help you get there, I’m all in.
So, what one thing can you do to take a step closer to being that confident leader making a difference?
Leave a comment or write to me. I’ll read each and every one.
Know someone who could relate to this information? Share it. We need introverts to share their gifts with the world and lead with confidence!