Extroverts Have a Lot to Learn from Introvert Leaders

It’s a common assumption that extroverts are better suited for leadership roles.  Their ability to connect with people, high degree of empathy, and intuitiveness certainly do give them an edge when it comes to motivating and leading others.

But it’s plainly false to presume that introverts are any less effective at taking on management or leadership roles. Just look at renowned introvert leaders like Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, and Bill Gates.  In my experience, I’ve seen many an introvert take on and flourish in management roles.  What introverts lack in natural ability to connect with their staff, they make up for in awe-inspiring expertise and a concerted effort to learn how to properly lead teams.

Image graciously borrowed from Fast Company http://goo.gl/bSa4sZ

Image graciously borrowed from Fast Company http://goo.gl/bSa4sZ

So what is it about an introvert that helps them succeed in leadership and what can we extroverts learn from them to build our own leadership abilities? Full disclosure, on an extroversion scale of 1 to 10, I’m an 11.

Introverts tend to be deeply self-aware.  Introverts are more cognizant of their personalities and how they come across to others.  They know what they know and are accepting of what it is they need to learn to succeed at something.

Introverts recognize their weaknesses.  Introverts are much better than extroverts at owning their weaknesses and will work hard to develop the knowledge and skills they need to excel at what they’re doing.

Introverts follow the playbook.  Introverts are more apt to follow the training they receive, the rules and processes a company develops, and the coaching they get from HR.

Introverts inspire others through their deep technical expertise.  How many times have you heard employees complain about a manager who is “clueless” or doesn’t know what he or she is talking about?  Employees need to believe that their leaders know their subject areas.

Introverts aren’t egocentric.  Introverts tend to be much better at checking their egos and accepting what they don’t know.  They also tend to be more open to learning and self-improvement.

Introverts seek help.  Introverts, being rather self-aware, are more apt to seek the counsel of people who are experts in areas where they lack information or knowledge.

To me, that final point is the most important.  I’ve been in HR for 10 years and I’ve coached and trained more managers than I count.  More often than not, it’s the introverted manager who comes back to you for additional coaching or to work out a particular employee situation.

I recognize I’m doing a lot of generalizing in this post and not every introvert is management material, any more than every extrovert is.  The point is that there are natural strengths that come along with being an introvert – and for us extroverts – we definitely have something to learn from them.

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