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The Guide For The Introverted Leader

by Thuy Sindell, PhD. and Milo Sindell, MS.

Many people think that a leader has to be an outgoing and extroverted people person. Because of this, introverts can be overlooked for leadership opportunities. However, just because someone is shy, that doesn’t mean they can’t be a great leader. A number of leaders we work with who appear to be extroverts are self-proclaimed introverts.

In fact, our latest research found that both men and women think what’s important in a leader is their mindset about how they problem solve and how they treat others. As long as a person approaches challenges with a future- looking perspective and focuses on the capabilities of the group, they can become a great leader.

Understandably, it can be more difficult to identify these qualities in someone who is reserved. Here are three ways to approach leadership development when someone is an introvert:

Help them recharge

Some psychologists  that the reason introverts dislike crowds is because they process information differently. When they see a stimulus, they use more parts of their brain to process the information than an extrovert. As a result, they become more drained when in situations — like facing a group — that have more stimuli to take in.

It’s not necessarily that introverts are nervous around others, it’s that they know how taxing those environments can be. However, if you can coach them how to properly recharge after dealing with these circumstances, they won’t feel as overwhelmed. Coach introvert leaders to be aware of their energy levels, know when they need to “turn-on” their people skills, and know when and how to recharge.

One suggestion is for Introverts is to spread out their meetings or schedule group meetings early in the day. If they wait until the end of the day, they’ll already be feeling tired from a hard day of work. Encourage them to take time each day to be by themselves in a quiet place. This way, they can relax and reenergize.

Show them their strengths

It’s not that introverts are unaware of their strengths. They just need to be shown how those skills can be translated to, and used effectively in, a leadership role. By having introverted employees complete a self assessment, they can see how their strong points fit into how they interact with others.

Have a discussion with introverted individuals about their hidden strengths. These are skills that they can excel at with a little bit of training and coaching. Showing them what they can become after some development, will get them thinking about their future-selves as a leader.

However, make it clear that you’re not trying to change who they fundamentally are. You’re never going to be able to take an introvert and turn them into an extrovert. It’d be foolish to even try. Let them know you’re simply showing them how to apply their natural skills in a leadership role.

There are plenty of traits typically associated with introverts that are essential to leadership. Consider the following important leadership qualities:

  • Good listener — Since introverts are unlikely to be talking and like to internalize and process information before responding, they are generally recognized as good listeners.
  • Humility — Introverts tend to have an accurate sense of their limitations and abilities. A humble leader is also better able to recognize and appreciate the talent of others.
  • Thoughtful — While a leader needs to be decisive, they shouldn’t be reckless. Introverts are more likely to take a prudent approach to risk-taking.

Let’s dig deeper into the importance of the last quality, thoughtfulness. Our previously mentioned survey found that both men and women feel leaders are more effective when they have intentional purpose and impact. This means they want a leader who doesn’t make rash decisions. They want to know that things have been carefully considered.

Share That It Leading Is more Than Exciting A Crowd

There are more ways to lead than engaging with large groups of people and giving big motivational speeches. People can also lead initiatives or one-on- one in a way that doesn’t take introverts out of their comfort zone.

For example, say you discover that an employee has a high level of organizational skills and a passion for health and wellness. They can lead by organizing a wellness fair to educate their co-workers about the best ways to stay healthy.

Sometimes, introverts are more comfortable working with people one-on-one instead of in a group. This makes introverted leaders perfect mentors. This gives them the ability to work with and get to know one individual so they don’t feel overwhelmed by too many people.

Like extroverts, introverts can be great leaders. They just need the right leadership development and coaching. Now that you understand what their unique needs are, take steps to help them grow.

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