Expert Panel, Forbes Coaches Council
There are two common misconceptions that come up over and over again in leadership conversations. One is that the best leaders are naturally extroverted. The other is that introverts are weaker leaders because they "don't like people."
While it's true that introverts love their alone time, they're not necessarily averse to social situations: It simply means they need some space to recharge after being around people. This can be a tricky balance when you're an introvert in a leadership position, when much of your time is spent attending meetings and strategizing with your team members. But rest assured that introverted leaders can be just as effective as extroverted ones when they set clear boundaries and expectations, and leverage their natural strengths.
Nine members of Forbes Coaches Council explained how introverts can set themselves up for leadership success.
1. Use Your Natural Observation And Listening Skills
Leverage your natural preferences such as observing and listening to your team and senior leaders to create innovative solutions. But also stretch yourself to go against type, and try to engage more interpersonally with others (e.g. hold more meetings, volunteer for more public engagements and one-on-ones), and make sure to be more visible to increase your influence and professional standing. - Richard Orbe-Austin, Ph.D., Dynamic Transitions Psychological Consulting, LLP
2. Clearly Communicate Your Decision-Making And Leadership Styles
In my experience as a coach, introverted leaders have sometimes been misunderstood been viewed as not collaborative or preferring to make decisions on their own. This is not true -- introverted leaders simply need time alone to reflect. Let team members and direct reports know that you value their input, but will need time to reflect on the information you receive before making a decision. - Christine Allen, Ph.D, Insight Business Works
3. Let Your Performance Speak Louder Than Your Words
Introverts are not as proficient at being heard during "heat of the moment" meetings where the louder, more extroverted people are. Introverts can counteract that by ensuring they "knock it out of the park" in regards to their performance on both the business and leadership fronts. Be known as someone who is competent, credible and consistently delivers. - Rubi Ho, The Rubi Ho Group
4. Find Spaces To Work In Your Best Energy
As an introvert, you have the unique gift of being able to observe dynamics in an introspective and insightful way. You will find you will have to push yourself to be in front of people, but afterward make sure you schedule the time to recover and recharge, working with your best energy. Drawing boundaries and allowing yourself to be yourself, and accessible to your team, will help you flourish. - Heather Pinay, Authentically: Business & Life Solutions
5. Don't Get Hung Up On The Introverted Label
The biggest thing that holds back introverted leaders is an incorrect impression of what leadership and introversion are by both themselves and others. Forget the label and even the studies that show introverts make great leaders. Just step into your own with confidence. Other wouldn't look for you to lead if they weren't confident in you. Just do it. - Larry Boyer, Success Rockets LLC
6. Prepare Speaking Points Before Meetings To Ensure Your Voice Is Heard
Introverts will have a response after they have mulled over data and planned what they want to say. This tendency affects how you are perceived at meetings or other situations that require you to have a snappy comeback or speak up quickly. Get the agenda in advance and think about the topics that will be covered before the meeting. Write down your thoughts and prepare your speaking points. - Loren Margolis, Training & Leadership Success LLC
7. Make One-On-One Meetings Part Of Your Leadership Method
Introverts gain energy, wisdom and momentum from within, while extroverts are energized by people around them. Both are strategic, visionary and effective. I'd recommend one-on-one lunches, individual meetings and small group reflections for introverted leaders so they shine -- and so people hear their true thinking. Large group meetings are inevitable, but may not be most impactful for introverts. - Joanne Markow, GreenMason
8. Space Out Your Big Meetings
Introverts recharge with alone or quiet time. Extroverts recharge by being with others. Introverted leaders need to be mindful of not scheduling too many things in one day or one week. Space out meetings and conferences to enable you to enjoy them and not feel depleted by the end of the week. Having scheduled times for "open door policies" will also allow for reflection and recharging. - Frances McIntosh, Intentional Coaching LLC
9. Build Small Groups To Help You Focus On Certain Problems
Seek out small groups that can help you achieve your vision. Find strategic alliances in your organization who can contribute to the change you are looking to implement. Create groups of two or three people that focus on solving specific challenges. This will give you the opportunity to engage and immerse yourself in the discussion. Ultimately it's a great way to get buy-in and build rapport. - Alan Trivedi, Trivedi Coaching & Consulting Group
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