Five Ways That Introverts Make Good Leaders

Jennifer Kahnweiler dispels the myth that introverts are at a disadvantage in leadership roles. If anything, Jennifer argues, introverts have special skills that actually make them very good leaders. Consider the five ways introverted leaders tend to:

1. Think first, talk later. Introverted leaders think before they speak. Even in casual conversation, they consider others’ comments carefully, and stop and reflect before responding. Their tendency to be more measured with words is a major asset in today’s recession, when no leader can afford to make a costly gaffe.

2. Focus on depth. Introverted leaders seek depth over breadth. They like to dig deep—delving into issues and ideas before moving on to new ones. They are drawn to meaningful conversations—not superficial chit-chat—and know how to ask great questions and really listen to people’s answers.

3. Exude calm. Introverted leaders are low-key. In times of crisis, they project a reassuring, calm confidence—think President Obama—and regardless of the heat of the conversation or circumstances, speak softly and slowly.

4. Let their fingers do the talking. Introverted leaders prefer writing to talking. They opt for e-mail over the telephone and meet face-to-face only when necessary. Today, their comfort with the written word helps them better leverage online social networking tools such as Twitter—creating new opportunities
to be “out there” with employees as they deal with uncertainty and fear.

5. Embrace solitude. Introverted leaders are energized by spending time alone. Sufferers of people exhaustion, they frequently need to retreat to recharge their batteries. These regular timeouts fuel their thinking, creativity, and decision-making, and when the pressure is on, help them be responsive— not reactive.

Agree? Disagree? Thoughts? Chime in below.


Unknown said...

Right On!!! I agree with you 100%

Karl Strandberg said...

As an introvert, and, from feedback that I have received through many years, a good leader. I welcome a text that suggests that introverts can make good leaders. I am critical of studies that suggest that only extroverts can be effective leaders. Persons that don't believe that introverts have the qualities that help make them effective leaders, need to study the MBTI leader profile of the Catalyst (NF); however, many introverts, also, are NFs!

cattus in hat est nos said...

Very interesting angle on the issue!

Unknown said...

Anything Jennifer says is brilliant, useful, and correct. Bill Kahnweiler (a mega-introvert and her husband)

PatrickHehir said...

I like the Five insights and honestly I think that one can put a positive spin on peoples competencies but I was thinking, how do you prevent their weaknesses (their dark side.. and we all have them) from diminishing their effectiveness. For me one of the biggest disadvantages of an introvert is their lack of approachability, accessibility and connection to the pulse and energy of the organization. IF however, the introvert has a trusted advisor that can supplement his role in staying connected then he can ultimately loose very little of his capacity to lead.

Anonymous said...

As an introvert (or at least one that does not like to be in the forefront) and still time after time are chosen as a leader in different settings I have struggled with the general picture of leadership, to live up to the norm resulting in a couple of near burn-outs. Hence, I have searched for ways to be leader as ME. This is definitely a start for an answer. Someday I hope to find a way to be a leader that suits me all the way. Cheers /Andreas

Unknown said...

Agree 150%. Too bad this book wasn't written a long time ago for the introverts among us. I think Charles Schwab is a classic example of this and a GREAT leader.

I hope this book gets promoted and read in a big way.

And a note to the author....the next book should be a "how to" on self promotion for the introvert.

Unknown said...

Great comments all!
To Patrick - the trusted advisor or mentor idea helps. I also found that self-awareness and an ability to adjust and adapt is what works for introverts. There is a 4 P's Process in the book that outlines the specific steps you can take to overcome the approachability issue and others.
To Mary - check the IL out for tools to step up and get noticed. Thanks for the example of Schwab - John Kador, author of BK's Effective Apology wrote a great bio on him!

Ela K. said...

I agree with the thesis here, but the traits that are described are the traits of highly sensitive people, who are very often introverts. I recommend a book by Elaine N. Aron "The Highly Sensitive Person" to explore the topic in more detail. This book is good for understanding of the traits and behaviours of highly sensitive people often mistaken for shy and introverts.

Jon Kador said...

Kudos to Jennifer for articulating a truth that gets lost among all the shouting and attention-seeking of modern business. It takes all kinds to lead. Some of the best leaders in my career have been introverts. Charles Schwab has been mentioned. Bill Gates, too. For many years, Bill Gates took three weeks off each year to read and think and, most important, be quite still and solitary.

Josie Iselin said...

As an extrovert but the mother of a true introvert this is wonderful to read.

Thank you.

Maria Simpson said...

As an introvert and communications consultant, I have noticed that introverts are having a harder time than extroverts in finding a job right now because their energies are so different. I have been asked to give presentations on managing the job search for introverts, and have posted a list of suggestions on my website www.mariasimpson.com. These are consistent with all the information on introverts and have been well-received. If you are looking, or helping someone look, for a job, these suggestions might be helpful. Best wishes, Maria Simpson

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