Leadership and Assertiveness for Introverts

By Lyne Desormeaux, PsyD, MCC. A few clients of mine have recently been working on being more assertive or coming across has being empowered. 

Some are getting feedback that they seem to be saying yes too easily, or aren’t regarded as having authority or being curious. They are sometimes surprised when they get that feedback but perception is perception, especially if the organizational culture has put more value on leaders who speak their mind and are assertive.

One of my clients, after coming back visiting another site, realized that he had missed an opportunity to learn a lot more about the leader and the site’s strengths and challenges. The site leader was an extravert and did not stop talking — and my client let him talk. The feedback from the site leader was that he was quiet and did not say much. 

This specific client is an introvert, valued for his ideas and his work ethics, capable of networking in venues he knows, with people he knows, but he realizes that he could step in and assert himself a little more, especially with strong extraverts and new colleagues. 

A great book for introverts is Quiet, by Susan Cain. Cain says that Introverts are good leaders: “Introverts are uniquely good at leading initiative-takers. Because of their inclination to listen to others and lack of interest in dominating social situations, introverts are more likely to hear and implement suggestions. Having benefited from the talents of their followers, they are then likely to motivate them to be even more proactive.”

On the question of power and assertion, that is more subtle, but can be addressed as well. Many clients run away from the question of power and don’t even want to discuss it. They associate it with politics. Still, they have a desire to feel powerful. 

I like to ask them what power means for them, as well as when and where they experience feeling powerful. For some it might be outside of work, with their family or doing physical exercises. I then ask them if they think they could bring some of that experience of power to work. For some this works. For others it requires more understanding of power. Jeffrey Pfeffer, in his book Power, explains well what internal power is. 

Working on assertion and power, and how one comes across, is a continual process tightly woven with self-awareness and practice. 

To learn more about assertiveness, power, and the benefits of working with an executive coach: schedule a consultation with Lyne.