Why introverts can be leaders
If there’s one person who knows about leadership, it’s executive coach, communications expert, and author Kristi Hedges. She’s spent 25 years working with leaders to help them develop the skills necessary to effectively manage and lead their teams. And, yes, introverts have been included in her training with just as much success as others! In Hedges’ book, The Inspiration Code, she debunks common myths about leaders. The biggest one: There’s no such thing as a natural-born leader, so introverts are on the same playing field as extroverts. We talked to Kristi about some of the skills introverts already possess and how they can translate them into sharp, developed leadership skills in the workplace.
Use your listening skills to your advantage
An introvert tends to be more comfortable listening that speaking. Although this sounds like a problem for someone who wants to be a leader, it’s an extremely helpful skill to have. According to Hedges, “Introverts tend to think first and speak second. They’re most comfortable going inward with their ideas before externalising them. This thoughtfulness often makes them strong strategists. They will take the time to absorb information and find common threads. What might bore an extrovert, an introvert can find fun. Their quieter nature can make them easier to approach. They’re also comfortable giving a conversation space, and can be more adept at fully focusing on the person in front of them.” Consider your listening skills an asset, and make them work to your advantage. Taking everything in and processing it before speaking will ensure that your messages are thoughtful and based on precise information.
Observe and absorb
An introverted person who finds it difficult to communicate with others can develop more comfort speaking through observing. “Introverts are less concerned with talking just to talk, and therefore, when they do share something it’s sound and well-developed,” Hedges says. “It’s rare for introverted leaders to throw out half-baked ideas. They tend to be observers, as well. They notice subtle nuances that others may miss. They are often the ones who can tell you what’s really going on in a situation.” Observation skills not only help an introvert absorb information others miss, but they can also help introverts focus on what other people do well when communicating. Make mental notes of effective communication strategies others on your team use in meetings and work on mirroring those in your communications.