There’s a common misconception that in order to be an inspiring leader you need to be able to stand up on your soapbox and, with great bombast and enthusiasm, rally the troops to your cause through the sheer power of your personality.
And while classic extroverts may have an easier time in the spotlight, it doesn’t guarantee that they’ll connect with people in a significant way. There are some, in fact, who are all flash and no substance (the term “blowhard” comes to mind).
Some of the most inspiring leaders that I’ve met in my 30 years of working across the business spectrum are soft-spoken, thoughtful, and–most important–real. They’re both true to their own quiet nature and deeply committed to understanding the hopes, needs, dreams, and aspirations of their constituents. That’s what makes them great. And that desire and ability to connect and understand has nothing to do with introversion or extroversion, nothing to do with their Myers-Briggs profile.
So, if you’re an introvert, please understand that your opportunity to be a great leader (or Extreme Leader, as I like to say) is no harder or easier than it is for an extrovert. Here are 3 things to keep in mind:
1. View your introversion as a leadership asset vs a liability. Your perspective makes a massive difference! A study by Spark, Stansmore, and O’Connor found that fewer introverts rise to higher level leadership positions, not because of some inherent inability–but only because they think they won’t. Here’s how the authors of the study put it:
“We therefore argue that introverts fail to emerge as leaders as often as extraverts because they engage in higher levels of forecasted negative affect and that these forecasts impede their emergent leadership potential.”
2. Create more solo time to reflect. There’s a lot of power in reflection and solitude. Begin to think about how to use that to your advantage. This will leverage your natural inclination to think deeply about the values and objectives that you’re responsible for upholding and accomplishing. And then use that conviction to energize yourself through uncomfortable social situations (like meetings and conferences, for example).
3. Spend more time one on one with members of your team. It may take more time, but the relationships you’ll create will be well worth the effort. These chats will give you the opportunity to learn about your team members’ lives and that will give you everything you need to more fully help them to succeed.
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