Let me admit right up front – I am an extrovert. And by extrovert, I mean EXTROVERT. Like talk to the people in line at the grocery store, thrive being around others, and process all my ideas out loud – sometimes to my detriment!
As my coaching practice has evolved, I find a large portion of my practice is currently with introverted leaders. I’ve had the pleasure to dig deeper into the minds and hearts of my introverted clients and understand what makes them thrive.
While certainly not a generalization, I hear from a lot of my introverted clients that they feel they cannot rise through the ranks of leadership because they are some kind of “not enough” – not gregarious enough, not outspoken enough, not giving enough direct feedback, not knowing how to network enough, and so on.
Let’s be clear- YOU ARE ENOUGH just as you are. And your employer hired you and put you in a leadership position because they believed in your expertise and leadership skills. What makes you unique is your superpower.
The extroversion/introversion scale is not about how friendly or social you are – instead, it is about where you gain your energy. Extroverts tend to gain their energy from others and the outside world, whereas introverts tend to recharge by the inner world and reflection. This is based on the work of Carl Jung in the 1920s and popularized by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment.
Whether extrovert or introvert, all leaders must utilize our strengths and be mindful of blind spots and work on opportunities to improve. Introverted leaders often have very well-developed ideas when they share, think and interact deeply and specifically, and often are more attuned to sensory cues and data.
To maximize these strengths and to allow for continued growth on opportunities for improvement, the following are some tips for introverts to thrive in the workplace:
- Find opportunities and quiet locations to think: Our modern workplace of open office spaces and collaboration is not always conducive to introverted thinking and working. We often have back to back meetings and no private space. To mitigate that, schedule time on your calendar for what I call “desk time”. Schedule a conference room for a quiet space to work, think and design where you won’t get interrupted.
- Check out resources to support your wonderful unique brand of leadership: There are a lot of resources in the world to help support your leadership style. A terrific book is “Quiet” by Susan Cain. You can also hire a coach to work with you on navigating introversion in an often extroverted culture. Find other introverted leaders you admire and conduct informational interviews. What makes them successful? What are the challenges they encounter and how do they manage them for themselves? How do they see their strengths be utilized and appreciated in the workplace?
- Don’t try to be anyone other than you. Sure, understanding what your opportunities for growth are and actively working on them are a key aspect of leadership success. And we can always grow. But remember what makes you uniquely you. Employees can easily pick up on authenticity. Be you – then be a better you.
- Network one person at a time – I hear from many of my introverted clients that networking feels too schmoozy, that you are making artificial and surface relationships. This is a false narrative. Don’t feel you have to “work the room” and network with 100 people at no level of depth. Pick one or two people a week, or month, to get to know a bit better for a mutual professional relationship. You’ll be surprised how quickly that adds up.
- Find an accountability partner. Partnering with a colleague to be an observer and help you stay accountable to your goals is a great way to get you out of your head and sharing ideas with the world – the world needs your genius!
Employees and organizations want authentic leaders who understand and utilize their strengths, as well as continue to work with their opportunities for growth. Introverted leaders bring so many strengths to the workplace – their depth of thought and analysis, their development of ideas, and their ability to be more receptive to input. Build on these strengths, stretch to enhance, and let the world benefit from your leadership.
Speak with Rachel to discuss your own challenges and victories as an introverted leader.