Introverts are unique breeds who often require downtime after too much socializing. Their acceptable levels of interaction differ drastically from those of an extrovert; but this doesn't make them any less capable of being great leaders.
"Some of the most impactful and trusted leaders and managers are introverts," said Demetra Anagnostopoulos, executive vice president of strategic partnerships at SurePeople. "Why? Because they prefer to think things through, formulate and process their ideas, and present complete information in thoughtful ways."
While many believe extroverts are better suited for leadership, that's simply not the truth. Leaders come in all types and forms. Introverted individuals can leverage their natural personality traits to get the job done well. Here are three tips for introverts who want to become better leaders.
1. Play to your strengths.
You shouldn't mask or change who you are at any phase of your career. Instead of trying to adopt an extrovert's behavior, you should channel your strengths as an introvert to advance both your goals and your company's.
"One of the core strengths of an introverted leader is that [they] will rarely be perceived as impulsive or flighty," said Anagnostopoulos. "As a result, introverted leaders create trust, stability and clarity when they reach the point of presenting their ideas and advocacies."
Instead of apologizing for being this way, you should embrace your way of leading, she added.
Introverts are hyper-aware of the realities of the situations they are in and able to act in focused, deliberate ways to achieve results, said J. Kelly Hoey, author of "Build Your Dream Network" (TarcherPerigee, 2017). "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."
"Introverts are often great listeners, a strength that allows them to capture and cull detail potentially overlooked by the boisterous," added Andrew Alfano, president and COO at The Learning Experience. "Using silence to do their heavy lifting for them may allow internal thought and problem-solving not obvious at the surface. The key for a leader is to create the space, opportunities and proper channels for the introvert to maintain self-expression."
2. Be transparent.
Just like you'd want your team to voice their concerns to you, you should be open about how you prefer to work and what this means for everyone. Work out a method that meets everyone's needs equally.
"Openly share your processing style with those you lead, and be clear about what 'good' looks like for you when they are presenting information to you," said Anagnostopoulos. "This will help you to increase collaboration and decrease conflict, especially if you have direct reports or team members who are external processors."
If you run into any issues or concerns, and you need time to think them through before addressing, you should make that clear to your team to prevent misunderstandings.
"You can be perceived as withholding information from people while you are reflecting," said Anagnostopoulos. "At the outset of a project or process, let them know that you are entering your thought zone, and give yourself a time limit to share with the team."
3. 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 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.
"Others may assume that you don't know, don't care or don't care to know, because introverts seek first to listen and understand, then share their perspective after gathering the facts," added Alfano.
It's crucial for introverts to connect and network with others, including extroverts, Alfano said. That way, you can leverage these relationships to find balance and establish better communication.
Additional reporting by Jennifer Post. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.