In the minds of most people, introverts spend most of their time in their homes, reading, watching television, and avoiding contact with other humans. Stereotypically, the idea of an introverted leader is an oxymoron. This is unfortunate, because introverts can actually often make the best leaders. Forbes notes that about 40% of executives describe themselves as introverts, including the big names like Bill Gates and Charles Schwab. First impressions might favor the extrovert, but dig a little deeper, and the talents of introverts become more obvious. Many successful businesses were built on the leaderships of introverts. Here’s why they make great leaders.
They Get to Know People
Introverts tend to have fewer friends than extroverts, but they tend to have closer relationships and deeper connections with the friends they do have. Good leaders get to know their team on a personal level, which allows them to motivate and connect with individuals. While extroverts are great at working a room and meeting new people, they sometimes flounder when the time comes to forge these deeper relationships. Introverts can inspire loyalty and belief exceptionally well when they are leading a team.
They Stay Calm…and Think Before They Speak
During times of crisis, you don’t want someone at the helm who internalizes all of the tension surrounding them. Having a calm voice of reason during difficult times can help keep the team on track and prevent mistakes. Introverts silently assess their surroundings, and often exude a calming aura that people respond well to in a crisis. Introverts rarely speak without thinking first, and they choose their words carefully. Since diplomacy and clear communication are essential traits of leaders, introverts can be uniquely suited to these roles.
They Prioritize Substance and Long-Term Planning
During a sales presentation, extroverts are great at charming potential clients and adding extra detail to their offer. Introverts may not be as comfortable with public speaking, but that doesn’t mean they don’t excel in this skill. They often pare down their presentation to the bare bones, prioritizing substance and making their points easy to understand and efficient, which is ideal in many scenarios. They’re also usually skilled at long-term planning, because they consider the big picture before making their plans. They’re thoughtful, prepared, and considerate.
They’re Creative Thinkers
Some of the most creative people are introverts, and they thrive on having alone time to recharge and refresh. During this time, they tend to do their best creative work, potentially bringing the next great idea to the table. Giving your employees the space and time they need to get creative is a great way to find out if your more introverted team members have what it takes to excel in a leadership role.
Most people aren’t very good at really listening. They’ll politely wait until their conversational partner has spoken, then jump in with their own opinions. Introverts, however, only tend to speak when they have something significant to say, and spend the rest of the time listening intently, absorbing as much information as possible throughout the exchange. Good leaders need to be good listeners, because they will be responsible for communications between staff on the floor and executives, and they will be responsible for doling out projects, mediating minor conflicts between employees, and sometimes informally counseling team members. Good listeners are few and far between, but they often make the best leaders.
Noticing the Potential of Introverts
It’s very possible that one of the reasons more extroverts take on leadership positions is that they get noticed by management more easily than their introvert colleagues. If you’re interested in developing your team’s growth and leadership potential, it’s a great idea to look to the more introverted employees and really notice what they’re bringing to the table. Maybe they have a calming influence over the team, or come up with the most innovative ideas. Don’t assume that just because an employee is quiet that they don’t have the potential to lead, or they’re not interested in taking on a leadership role. Both introverts and extroverts can both make exceptional leaders, but you can’t make your decisions based solely on first impressions. Give your quieter team members a chance to show their potential. Remember: introverts will always think before they speak.