by Joshua Oyenigbehin
While our society generally believes that the best leaders are extroverts, we must understand also that introverts can be great leaders if they understand – and make use of – the attributes that make them who they are.
What core attributes do leaders need to have?
What personality traits should they exhibit?
I am certain that your ideal leader would be an assertive, confident and charismatic fellow who is not bothered about being the center of attention. However, we generally seem to forget that not all leaders are extroverted. In fact, quiet and introverted leaders are all around us. If you don’t believe me, read about some of the richest men in the world, like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Wale Adenuga and so on.
Leadership is very important in any social interaction. As humans, leadership is essential to our understanding of the world we live in. Contrary to some people’s beliefs, leadership is not an escape from service; it is an avenue to solve problems and achieve defined goals.
Leadership – as a social responsibility – can be very tedious.
One characteristic that has been attributed to leadership is the ability of a leader to inspire and instill – in his/her followers – a sense of duty and readiness to act in order to achieve a goal. Charisma and tenacity are usually needed to ensure that followers are prompted to believe in a course. These attributes are believed to be unavailable in introverted leaders. This is why Susan Cain, an introvert and author of ‘Quiet: The Power of introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’, said: “Quiet leadership is not an oxymoron.”
Bill Gates alluded to the power and abilities introverts embody when he said: “I think introverts can do quite well. If you’re clever, you can learn to get the benefits of being an introvert”. But then, he was quick to add: “You better hire some extroverts… and tap into both set of skills in order to have a company that thrives.”
For people whose strength is in their quietness – who do not like to be the center of attention, leadership can be difficult for them even though they have what it takes to make great leaders. While our society generally believes that the best leaders are extroverts, we must understand also that introverts can be great leaders if they understand – and make use of – the attributes that make them who they are.
Research shows that extroverts are more likely to be promoted to top executive positions even if introverted workers also deserve such benefits.
However, you can boost your leadership ability with these tips:
Build Confidence, Invest in yourself
All humans naturally follow leaders with self-confidence. It is thus important for introverted leaders to make frantic and intentional efforts to build their self-confidence. Ask for help, go for courses, learn from your mentor, invest in yourself – especially in areas you are not very comfortable with career-wise. When you invest in yourself, you automatically build your confidence and, in turn, lead those that look up to you. Even if you have to ask your extroverts friends or colleague for help, do so. You need to get better.
Build Meaning Full Individual Relations
Building personal relationships is critical as a leader. Leaders know their people on a personal level. While extroverts are out to be known by people around them, introverts strive to know people around them, especially people that matter to them. People appreciate people who make efforts to know them on a personal level. As a quiet leader, you must understand how deep personal relationships can help you influence the people around you. This is why I agree with Joel Annesley who said: “The quiet ones – the introverts – are uniquely gifted. We have tremendous patience and empathy. We don’t need to say much, yet we’re able to build deep connections and rapport with those around us.” Do more of this.
Let Your Passion Translate To Value
People are drawn by people of value. Introverts are good at creating value, and they love to do so in their quiet corner. To build influence, you must understand the importance of creating value for those you want as followers. If you are a writer or a programmer, a singer, inventor or even a business person, work on things that bring you joy and also bring the best in you. Passion cannot be hidden, it comes to broad daylight even when you try to conceal it.
People will follow you when they see that you are changing the world with what you do. “The secret of life is to put yourself in the right lighting. For some, it’s a broadway spotlight. For others, a lamplit desk. Use your natural powers – of persistence, concentration and insight – to do the work you love and the ones that matter. Solve problems, make art, think deeply.” – Susan Cain.
Listen More, Speak Intentionally
Introverts should harness their innate ability to listen. We know that between extroverts and introverts, the latter are the best listeners. Followers are most likely to appreciate leaders who listen – people they can share their ideas, desires, and expectations with. According to Matthew Pollard, Introverts should learn how to “listen, not to answer, but to understand.” Your ability to listen will help you understand the reality of the decision you are about to make.
Aside from listening, an introverted leader must be firm when it’s time to speak. While you listen 90 percent of the time, you must be able to speak so your followers will hear you loud and clear. Your speech must be intentional and purposeful. Great leaders hardly speak but when they do, people listen.
Sometimes as introverts, you have to do things that make you uncomfortable. Things like stepping out of your comfort zone, attending events, meeting new people, or being at the center of attention. However, at a point in your leadership journey, you will have to do all these.
You will have to attend events and grant interviews because your followers want to see you and follow your footsteps. This might cost you your energy, authenticity, and even physical health. All you need to do is push yourself. You need to go with the flow.
Susan’s advice should help us out: “Figure out what you are meant to contribute to the world and make sure you contribute it. If this requires public speaking or networking or other activities that make you uncomfortable, do them anyway. But accept that they’re difficult, get the training you need to make them easier and reward yourself when you’re done.”