Most of us are surrounded by extroverts, and they seem to have many natural strengths that many leadership roles require…. they are able to command an audience and speak confidently, make decisions quickly, and can easily make conversation with anybody. I used to wonder, and I hear the same question from introverts these days: “Are introverts able to be good leaders?”
Of course every introvert and extrovert is different and each person has their unique strengths and challenges. Just as those certain qualities I mentioned above come naturally to many extroverts, here are four leadership strengths that come naturally to many introverts:
1. Introverts are good listeners: When I was a young professional, whether I was leading a project or a team or a company, I had to be the one who was doing the talking. Because I saw lots of confident extroverts who were talking… A LOT. And as an introvert, that felt intimidating to me–feeling I had to be the one always talking as the leader. But I started observing that the leaders who led really well were the ones who listened and asked questions. They were the ones who paused before they talked, they pause and take the time to listen to those they led. As a result of listening, their teams feel heard and understood.
2. Introverts are good at written communication: Are you puzzled when you read the emails or even the social media posts of some introverts? They seem so conversational in writing, yet are quiet and reserved verbally. Introverts have many thoughts…so many thoughts that it sometimes feels overwhelming to say them out loud. Or we want to think them through as to how to verbalize what we are thinking. And what if we get it wrong? In writing, introverts are able to take their time and choose their words carefully. Why is this a leadership strength? Mark Twain said, “Writing is easy…all you have to do is scratch out the wrong word.” And it’s difficult to do that verbally!
3. Introverts prefer one-on-one or small groups: How many times is a question asked in a meeting or large gathering group, and not many people respond? Or when they do, it’s the same people who speak up? Many people–both introverts and extroverts feel more comfortable answering questions or sharing their ideas one-on-one and in small group settings. An introverted leader is more likely to initiate these types of smaller or one-on-one meetings or discussions, much to the delight of many on their team.
4. Introverts think things through. Rather than make rash decisions, introverts tend to roll thoughts and ideas around before taking action. They most likely have a back-up plan, and are their own devil’s advocate, because they think of what all could possibly go wrong. Although they may take longer to act, they have carefully thought it through.
In summary, this is not to say that extroverts cannot excel in these four areas, they just have to be intentional about it…just as introverts have to be intentional in the areas where extroverts are naturally strong.