Introverts Make Great Leaders

I just read an article that resonated with me and wanted to share my perspective. It is about introverts and why they make great leaders. Being what I call a social introvert, the title caught my eye and as I read it, the points that Leo Aspden makes are great. Here is the full article – “People management: why introverts make great leaders.”

This article also interests me as a number of leaders that I respect are introverts. The article mentions Bill Gates. I spent a number of years at Sun Microsystems and Scott McNealy shared that he had to work through some of his introverted tendencies to become the leader that he was. But enough about me. Let’s get into the article.

Leo talks about five areas where introverted tendencies are valuable for leaders. Here they are with my comments.

Five  Leadership Tendencies that Introverts Have

  1. They’re great at listening
    • We would all like our leaders to listen to what we have to say and consider our input. Introverts do this well.
    • The introvert needs to ensure that discussions do not go on for too long.
  2. They often make more calculated decisions
    • The balancing act that needs to happen between Introverts and Extroverts is to allow for enough discussion and input, and then to move on to a decision.
    • The introvert needs to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to participate while ensuring that no one dominates.
    • The introvert also needs to be conscious of the time that it takes to make a decision. Extroverts tend to be comfortable making a decision very quickly, even on the spot. Whereas introverts like to have some time to think things through before making a decision. This can be viewed as being slow, lacking urgency, and/or being bureaucratic.
  3. They’re a great balancing act in teams of extroverts
    • In my experience, the best teams are a combination of both introverts and extroverts – if you can leverage the strengths of each.
    • To understand this, I recommend that every leader understand their team fully. A tool like Myers Briggs can help. This will give you not just whether they are introverted or extroverted but provides other aspects of the member’s personality.
    • This will allow the leader to do a better job of working with and leveraging their team. One simple example is the way you run a meeting. If the team is a mix of both introverts and extroverts, you may need to discuss a topic in a meeting. Then give everyone one day for it to sink in and to think about it more fully. Then reconvene in order to finish the discussion and/or make a decision.
  4. They don’t mind working in solitude
    • It is beneficial for a leader to work well in teams and on their own.
    • The introvert needs to make sure that they do not revert to working on their own in lieu of collaborating with others.
  5. They give colleagues more freedom to share ideas
    • It is great to have a leader that is open to new ideas!
    • This is an area where introverts tend to be strong and there is very little downside.
    • The only thing to watch is that being open and listening to lots of ideas does not cause a continual change in decisions or thinking. A leader needs to make a decision and move on. They need to provide a vision and move the team or organization in that direction.

Leo closes with “How to grow and develop your introvert leaders.”

I like a couple of things that he has to say in this section. The first is that you need to “help to squash the misconception that introversion is a barrier to leadership and that only extroverts make great leaders.”

I recommend that you address this by providing examples of introverted leaders. The article talks about Bill Gates. I mentioned Scott McNealy. Mark Zuckerberg is another. Make sure that you mention the skills that they developed in order to be a successful introverted leader.

The other is about developing your introverted leaders. Identify introverts who have the interest and ability to be leaders and mentor them. My philosophy in mentoring is to emphasize strengths and minimize limitations. The article talks about the strengths that introverts have. My comments above mention the areas that need to be minimized.

Hope you enjoyed the article as much as I did. Let me know what you think!

See Also

People management: why introverts make great leaders

What Does It Mean to Give as a Leader

My Take on Tim Ferriss 9 Habits to Stop Now


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