For some of us, the soft stuff of human interactions let alone leadership can be exhausting. Perhaps you’re like my talented friend who sabotaged himself from promotion to a manager role because he would have to err, manage people.
It doesn’t have to be this way. For all the front page promotion of the attributes of the extrovert leader; leading from the frontlines is not the only effective approach to business success.
Let’s get comfortable in the Fortress of Solitude and have a quick rummage through the Introvert Leader’s superpower toolbox;
Technology is your friend. Use it as a bridge, not as a barrier to human connection. As tempting it may be to hide behind a screen, try to set up and organise with tech but be present at meetings. We use Verbz to stay engaged as a team and prepare for effective meetings.
Best of all, having frictionless and open communication platforms makes it easier for your team and direct reports to be transparent and focused. All of which reduces the need for as many meetings. Win-Win!
I find audio calls far less tiring than face to face meetings and where possible plan my meetings as a mix of each during the week to stay productive. Similarly, I achieve a lot more in smaller group meetings or one-on-one catch ups and will schedule those more often.
Technology is also helpful in setting boundaries for communications and scheduling. We all work better when we have the time and space to get into the Flow and being able to dedicate time for meetings and time for solo effort is vital. Manage your Calendar proactively and pre-block times for specific activities.
Not a typo. Every leader gets their energy source from somewhere. Extroverts draw from external stimuli like human interactions and recharge as they socialise. Introverts on the other hand source their energy from within. Dedicating time to a quiet place to reflect, think and learn powers an introvert.
So for me, whilst a networking event can get exhausting, I’m energised by a deep dive into a strategic issue and a small group discussion to resolve it.
Introvert leaders should play to their strengths when managing a team.
- Attentive Listening and Critical Thinking
- Your ego won’t get in the way of giving team members the opportunity to voice their proposals and you’ll be respected for not only listening to them but making the effort to consider their views.
- Being able to act in a consistent and considered way based on data is reassuring for both the team and your peers.
- Lead from the Back
- You’re comfortable with letting your team shine so why not ask open ended questions and let them talk. This lets you absorb and consider at your own pace.
- As you reflect on the team’s views, you give yourself space for strategic thinking and build on their ideas which is a great way to inspire them to contribute more.
- Discover your own ways to express support and appreciation. Perhaps a hand written note of thanks or a planned walk through the office to deliver good news to a team member.
- Over time, you’ll build genuine connections and be comfortable with how each team member works best.
Time to reflect inevitably gives introverts time to self assess. Done constructively, such self awareness makes for a great leader. It’s also a great way to practice being accountable to oneself which will be evident to those around you. No one is a tougher judge on yourself when it comes to holding your own values and purpose.
Being self aware, however exposes us to perceived weaknesses too. That’s OK; once we know about them, we can choose to do something about it. Let’s look at some examples;
- We don’t like Confrontation
- Being a Manager and leader means some difficult conversations like firing a poor performing employee.
- Be prepared. Gather the facts. Practice with a mentor. Draft a script if you need to get comfortable but speak with authority.
- Plan for the aftermath such as a transition plan of hiring, training and distributing workload.
- Knowing where you need help and be willing to ask for it
- Bring together a complementary team that covers known needs.
- Leadership skills are just that; Skills that can be learnt and practiced.
- I found great inspiration from the works of Stanford Psychology Professor Carol Dweck and highly recommend watching her 2014 TED Talk as a gateway into the benefits of a Growth Mindset.
- Work on your Presence
- Hone your physical awareness from a relaxed balanced posture to fluid movements and eye contact around the room.
- Practice in a safe space and learn from what accomplished speakers do.
In each example, the key is to give yourself permission to play outside your comfort zone, confident in the anchors that are your strengths as an Introvert.
Introverts have all the strengths they need to be great and charismatic leaders. We are gifted with the natural inclination to make people feel listened to, liked and inspired. Understanding how we interact best with others and how they want to work with us will improve engagement and productivity. Adopting a growth mindset and letting ourselves play outside our comfort zone when required lets us develop as leaders and managers.
I appreciate you reaching the end of this thought bubble. For more inspiration, I highly recommend Susan Cain’s TED Talk from 2012 and hope it leads you all to further success.
Bonus: The risk of “False Growth Mindset”
Carol Dweck’s colleague in Australia, Susan Mackie; raised the concern of a “False Growth Mindset” where educators were paying lip service to the Growth Mindset strategy but retaining the structure and metrics of a Fixed Mindset. Read more here and here.
One takeaway from this was that Praising Effort was only effective when coupled with Learning from the effort and failed result.