Extroverts get the job done, right?. Where that leaves introverts is anyone’s guess. There are exceptions in the form of pop-cultural heroes – silent types who smolder their way to victory – but the overriding picture is that of the extrovert proudly leading from the front with rabble-rousing speeches.
This is a cliché of course but the fundamental bias which permeates our culture is one of the extroverts – talkers, leaders – forwarding the cause through their confident deeds and words.
Yet introverts are equally adept at effective leadership – they simply lead in a different, perhaps quieter manner. If you are an introvert who finds yourself in a leadership role, here are five effective steps to becoming an inspirational leader
Focus on listening
The mistake that many leaders make is that they see themselves as the talkers and doers – the ones who sense, diagnose and cure the problem with their own approach to voicing their opinions throughout the process. Leadership is ever subtler than that.
“History is littered with examples of leaders who failed to listen adequately – they drove on, choosing their own path, failing to heed the advice and cautions of those around them. This is perhaps the most fundamental leadership mistake to make, and inherently introverts are less likely to make it,” says Colin Fredowksi, a marketer at State of writing and OX Essays.
Lead strongly through the bad times
The true test of a leader is how they react to adversity. In theory, and within reason, anyone can lead a ship through serene waters, but it is when the chips are down that leaders reveal their true colors. And once again, introverts do not find themselves at a disadvantage to the more vocal extroverts. For what truly guides a group, organization, team, or whatever it may be, through tough periods, is leading from the front and leading by example and deed, not chest-thumping and geeing everyone up around you. A leader contemplates the challenge at hand and considers how to chart a path through those troubled waters, not shirking responsibility at the crucial moments, and dragging team members with them through sheer force of determination and will. Actions, not words get the job done, and this is particularly true in challenging moments.
The ever-present comfort zone is a risk to all leaders and followers alike; anyone can fall into the trap of their safe space. Yet leaders more than anyone else must venture out into those territories where they feel less at home – for an introvert this will be in group spaces, behind a podium, or in the spotlight in general. It’s not about changing your personality, it’s about accepting that sometimes you need to push your boundaries.
* “Volunteer for a task that you know you would usually duck away from, or take charge in a meeting for once. You may just surprise yourself, as I have myself many times in the past,”* advises Teresa Chapman, a project manager at Paper Fellows and Eliteassignmenthelp.
Do what you do best
As important as it is to challenge yourself, don’t forget what it is that makes you what you are and has lead to your successes in the past. Namely, you. Introverts are often deep thinkers, and it is the capacity to think on multiple levels and concentrate effectively that makes them effective. So go to your thinking space when you need to, and don’t be afraid to take a little time out if you need it.
Use the written word
As a result of your ability to think problems through and resolve conflicts in the safe space of your mind, the challenge now will be to effectively communicate your decisions and plans of action. Naturally, this is the more challenging aspect for an introvert, but verbal communication, especially in the form of a group presentation or announcement, is only one way of doing it. In fact, disseminating information in the form of written documents, be those emails, memos, new policies and procedures, mission statements or simple documents, is an incredibly effective way of ensuring that your ideas are not just communicated, but start to become points of reference for others. In that way, you can express yourself clearly and saliently, and not through a medium where you may feel less comfortable (but don’t forget the requirement to challenge yourself from time to time).
Becoming an effective leader is a journey for everyone, and whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, you’ll have to work on your weak spots to become the leader you want to be. It’s a journey of discovery and self-improvement, based on the fundamental aspects that make you great.