“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
Einstein. Gandhi. Buffet. Want to know what these three great minds have in common?
They’re all introverts.
As all introverts know, extroversion is an ideal that’s celebrated and revered in our society. It starts at a young age, too. Susan Cain, in her novel Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, says:
“If you’re an introvert, you also know that the bias against quiet can cause deep psychic pain. As a child you might have overheard your parents apologize for your shyness. Or at school you might have been prodded to come “out of your shell”—that noxious expression which fails to appreciate that some animals naturally carry shelter everywhere they go, and some humans are just the same.”
Surely Ms. Cain is onto something there, when you consider that some of the greatest leaders in the history of mankind have been introverts. Introverts are often misunderstood. And not all leaders should be brash, loud, and charismatic. The world also needs leaders who show poise; exhibit great listening skills; analyze complex situations before making a decision; and exude calm in times of conflict.
Here are 5 tips any introvert can use to become a better leader.
1. Listen first, talk second.
This is something that comes naturally to introverts, and it’s an oft-underutilized skill in the business world. One key to being viewed as a respected leader is to actively listen to your friends/clients/followers and then provide guidance and answers. According to Susan Cain, “There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.”
2. Step up during times of crisis.
Crises, both at home and at work, are a part of life. It’s how you respond to these moments of adversity that matter. So step up and be the “voice of reason” when bad stuff happens. Where others might see a crisis, introverted leaders see an opportunity.
3. Get out of your comfort zone.
As an introvert, you are likely more comfortable working alone than with people. You may not like to speak in front of groups. But the reality is, these are things that all great leaders need to do sometimes. So force yourself to participate in “small talk” once in a while, even if you think it’s useless. Take a public speaking class. Volunteer to take the lead on a new project at work that you may not know much about. Work on getting a little better at the things you’re not particularly great at each week.
4. Get into your comfort zone.
Introverts spend a lot of time in their own heads. And we need this time. It’s how we recharge, reflect, and come up with great ideas. So set time aside every single day. Even if it’s 15 minutes. Find somewhere quiet to sit down and just breathe. Let the thoughts flow through your head like clouds. And when you’re done, jot down any new ideas that came to mind, which leads to our next tip.
5. Write it down.
Introverts tend to be better at writing than speaking. That’s why you should put your ideas down on paper before you speak about them. And here’s a tip for making your key points “stick”, whether it’s during a business meeting or after speaking at a conference: leave them with something. Create a simple 1- or 2-page document summing up your salient points, answering anticipated questions and objections, and offering to answer any additional questions.
So you’ll probably notice a trend with most of these leadership tips. Most of them come naturally to introverts. So utilize your strengths. Acknowledge, accept and improve upon your weaknesses. And always remember this:
“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”