Introverts tend to be more reserved, less outgoing and less likely to engage in confrontation than extroverts. Because of that, some may say that introverts do not make the best leaders.
However, many leadership experts say that is not true. While leadership may come more naturally to extroverts, introverted individuals can still leverage their natural personality traits and get the job done well. Here are three tips to help introverts become better leaders.
1. Understand your strengths as an introvert.
There's often a cultural pressure to act like an extrovert in the workplace – to speak up, get noticed and have an engaging presence, said Kristi Hedges, leadership coach and author. Instead of trying to adopt an extrovert's behavior, an introvert is better off determining how their innate strengths can advance both their and their company's goals.
Introverts are hyper-aware of the realities of the situations they are in and are able to act in focused, deliberate ways to achieve results, said J. Kelly Hoey, author of "Build Your Dream Network." "They are great observers of human interactions. They listen (and) scan the situation or challenge before them, then think critically through each action item before charging into action."
"Don't try to make decisions on the fly; instead listen and ask questions," Palm said.
2. Focus on what is within your control.
Your company may not instantly reward your introverted leadership style. In a tortoise vs. hare way, you can prevail if you stay focused on the factors you can influence.
"The leadership path is something new leaders need to learn to navigate," Hoey told Business News Daily. "With critical understanding, even an introvert can navigate the most challenging situations."
Hedges also said that a common mistake introvert leaders make is spending too much time inside their own heads planning, devising and going through scenarios.
"While this is a good skill to have, they need to be mindful that other people can't see all that work being done," she said. "As a leader, your teams want to see what your priorities are and what you care about. Introverts need to be explicitly transparent about their thoughts, values and plans."
Since introverts get their energy from quiet, contemplative time, it is also critical to build a structure to your workweek that supports that, said Jacqueline Breslin, director of human capital services at TriNet.
"An introvert who goes from one meeting to the next for days on end will be completely depleted," she said. "If (introverts) work in an open office environment, they may need to spend a couple hours a day wearing noise-canceling headphones, or find a conference room to work in, spend an hour or two in the morning working prior to getting to the office."
3. Be prepared to put yourself out there.
Use your powerful skills of observation to gain critical insights on when, why and how you'll actively engage to move your career ahead.
Hoey noted that one of the biggest mistakes introvert leaders can make is blindly following the advice of the person who "knows" – perhaps a boss, manager or mentor – without giving it a second thought. Because of this, introverts often think they are communicating more than they are perceived to be. It's not uncommon for introverted leaders to feel that they've overcommunicated while their direct reports feel in the dark, said Hoey.
Sharing ideas, especially before they're fully baked, often doesn't come readily for introverts, said Hedges. But it's important to push yourself to speak up when it matters.
"If speaking up in meetings is not always comfortable, then expressing an opinion over email after a meeting is important. However, they can't rely on this technique all the time," Breslin said. She added that being silent in meetings may create a reputation of being apathetic, tuned out or meek.
"Introverts sometimes let their introversion be an excuse of not going out of their comfort zone," Palm added. "We all have to go out of our comfort zones to reach a next level of success."