In a world full of blustering, loud and often obnoxious leaders, I have developed a profound appreciation for intelligent, thoughtful, quiet leadership. People who get the job done because someone needs to do it, not because they want to brag about it afterwards.
I believe that introverts actually have a greater capacity for leadership, but whether they actually realize their full potential depends on a variety of internal and external factors. Full disclosure before I go any further, I’m an extrovert married to an introvert with an introverted child and about 70% of my corporate clients are introverts.
Before we dive into the reasons, I’m not saying that all introverts exhibit these qualities, but they will display them more than extroverts do. Now like anything there are exceptions to this and each person is different. Anyone can learn from these characteristics to increase their leadership ability.
Better listeners and better at reading people.
By their very nature introverts listen more and talk less. They actively lean in and pay attention to what you’re saying. They read your body language better because they are not just waiting for you to stop talking to reply. Having said this as an introverted leader you still must learn how to speak well. There is a natural spotlight of leadership that all executives and public figures must get use to operating in.
Introverts listen for the sake of listening, which is a powerful communication advantage. ~ Narges Nirumvala
More empathy and compassion.
One fundamental aspect of great leadership is empathy and compassion. You must genuinely care about the people and organization you serve.
Above all else leadership is a service to others and that requires you to see the world from someone else’s perspective. ~ Narges Nirumvala
More altruistic motives.
This follows on from my point above. Look at any political election anywhere in the world and you will see leaders who’s motives are about accumulation of power and greed. An introverted leader is more likley to have motives that are about others. The reason for this is that extroverts have a fundamental need to display their accomplishments so they need more and more. An introvert will often put others first, so their motives can often be kinder and more genuine.
Ego doesn’t get in the way of decision making as often.
Effective decision-making is a powerful cornerstone of leadership. To make great decisions you need to have focus on the greater good and not let your own ego get in the way. Introverts have smaller egos by their very nature, so their decision making is often better.
To an introvert it’s often much more about we than me, because they don’t like focusing on themselves. Being humble is a vital characteristic of great leadership. Having said that there are times when it’s a strategic advantage to talk about your achievements or those of your team. So a moderate amount of humility is ideal.
Take time for quiet reflection.
Introverts recharge alone versus extroverts who recharge with people. This vital difference gives the introverted leader time to read, reflect and contemplate. Thinking time is invaluable to leadership.
Not always trying to win a popularity contest.
This is something I’ve written about before. Extroverts are much more likely than introverts to try to see leadership as a popularity contest (which it is definitely not). An introvert doesn’t need other people’s approval as much and this gives them the upper hand.
More sensitive and less abrasive.
Over the years CEO has come to mean Chief Engagement Officer. As a leader of any organization, team or country you must be able to build instant rapport with a whole range of different stakeholders. Introverts often have a more subtle, softer approach which also makes them less abrasive and better able to form these vital relationships one-on-one.
Being sensitive is a strength, because it gives you the ability to connect with more people. Connection leads to engagement, which makes you a much more effective leader. ~ Narges Nirumvala
Less talk and more action.
The ideal leader is one that takes action and when the time is right talks about it effectively. Introverted leaders get the job done. They focus on the action and not the talk, it makes them much more effective in almost every way, except the public relations game that all leaders must play. This is an Achilles heel for the introverted leader because they must learn this vital skill to advance and fully realize their potential.
Focus on competence.
On their way up, introverts focus on building their competence more than their brand or profile. I respect this trait above all others, because this is a characteristic all the great leaders I work with share. Something we can all learn from. Focus on substance, then improve your style.
This article was inspired by an event I went to the other day. I was sitting next to a particularly loud individual. Everything about them screamed “notice me” from what they were wearing to their ring tone and even the volume on their phone. I was overwhelmed and it was too late to move. I realized in that moment that being around so many introverts had changed my perspective. Because introverts give you room to breathe and allow for more mental space around them. So here’s to all the amazing introverts in the world, who are probably too humble to sing their own praises. This is my ode to you.
Called ‘The Secret Weapon’ by one journalist, Narges Nirumvala is a world renowned leadership communication expert and international speaker. She is the CEO of ExecutiveSpeak Coaching International and author of the book “Capture the Spotlight”. Narges works with executives and leadership teams to help them find their authentic voice and speak the language of leadership. Narges has received numerous accolades; most recently she was nominated for the 2016 Wendy McDonald Awards as Community Catalyst.