As an introvert, I’ve often been told by family and friends that they’re surprised by my ability to communicate my thoughts, both verbally and through writing. It’s as if my tendency to listen rather than speak causes folks to underestimate my abilities; to assume that there’s nothing going on inside my head. On top of that, there’s always the raised eyebrow I get when I tell somebody how effective I was as a leader, citing my time as an undergraduate teaching assistant at a major university. Besides these anecdotal points, there’s plenty of evidence that suggests that introverts make good leaders. Below, I’ve condensed what I learned in regard to introverts and why they make good leaders into a few easily readable points!
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to sit through a seminar or meeting while listening to a couple people totally overpower the majority of the room. Sometimes, sitting back and assessing all of the information in a contemplative manner leads to better results than just blurting out every single thing that comes to mind. One thing that introverts are effective at is compiling everything that’s been said in a meeting or conversation between multiple people, and molding that into an idea or unique point that others didn’t have the time to think of. Next time you see somebody sitting silently at the table with an intense expression on their face, chances are they’re taking it all in and formulating a significant thought. This is why introverts appreciate bosses or professors who stop and make a point of asking if anybody who hasn’t spoken yet would like to share an idea, as they often don’t like forcing their way into an active conversation.
Often times, while extroverts are well-meaning, they let their exuberance overshadow their co-workers. When they’re the ones running the show, this trait becomes especially problematic. This doesn’t mean that extroverts are bad leaders, per se, only that there’s a higher chance that an introvert will actively seek out ideas from every member of their team, often thinking of the needs of those around them rather than their own. Usually, introverts try and meld their thoughts with those of their workers, whereas extroverts will attempt to bend those below them to their ideals. Both methods can be effective, though there’s no doubt that the former is less grating!
I’m a big fan of the show Kitchen Nightmares. One of the key reasons why restaurants fail in that show is because owners are unwilling to properly delegate tasks, instead preferring to try and be everywhere at once. Though not all extroverts lead in this manner, the fact that they gain energy from socializing (and being in the thick of things) means they’re far more likely to be breathing down your neck at any given moment. Introverts, conversely, need time to rest and recuperate. This means that people working for an introverted leader will generally have more of an opportunity to go about their work independently, and thus, in a more creative manner.
While introverts don’t really seek out people in the way that extroverts do, they still yearn for social interaction. The difference is that, when they do decide to go out of their way to talk to somebody, it’s usually because they truly want to make some kind of connection with that person. Interactions with introverts therefore often feel more significant, as it’s obvious that they’re making an effort to seek you out. In other words, you get a sense that they care about you and your particular situation. This is why most introverts prefer having a handful of best friends rather than a hundred acquaintances.
Many leaders in history, like Abraham Lincoln, were great at what they did because they used their alone time to consider the minute details of every decision they made. Lincoln, for instance, often wrote his thoughts down on paper, spending days agonizing over what he should do next. Though all introverts aren’t quite comparable to the 16th President, they do generally share that trait of tending to mull over weighty decisions during their coveted alone time. Though extroverts certainly take the time to think things over as well, they probably don’t like the idea of spending hours in silence and solitude quite as much as your average introvert. It is during these retreats away from society that introverts develop important critical thinking skills, and process all of the information they’ve taken in throughout the day.
While there are certainly pros to being an extrovert, an introvert’s ability to defer to others, silently process information, and take a break from social interaction clearly has its benefits!
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