I have had occasions to meet and work with some people who have been given the opportunity to move into a position of management. Perhaps it is a senior management position. Or it might even be a more entry-level leadership job within a department. What I have found of interest is that several times upon meeting these ‘clients’ the person has begun my letting me know that they don’t know if being a leader is what they want. Why? Because they see themselves as introverts and uncomfortable with what they perceive will be required of them as a leader.
Interesting for sure and these feelings are contrary to their admitted desire to move up in the organization. They also override the increased salary that would often go with it. And what is it that concerns them … even frightens them from wanting to take the opportunity? As real introverts, they don’t feel that what the role will require is one they can fulfill. Yet, what I come to realize is that it is the person’s perception of what makes a good leader rather than reality.
Drawing upon our own individual work experiences and environments it’s understandable how many of the leaders we easily remember are those we saw or see as outgoing and true people persons. They moved easily among others and always seemed to be ‘on.’ They could move into any type of gathering with great ease and made others want to be around them for the energy they emit. Yet while these traits often jump out and are seen as positives, they represent only external qualities and not those at the foundation of successful leaders.
The Characteristics and Qualities of a Good Leader
The Center for Creative Leadership has identified key elements that are present in a successful leader. Although one doesn’t need to have all of these at the highest level, these are traits that are ever present to some extent. You will notice that the list does not include traits like ‘outgoing’ or ‘extrovert.’ Here are some of the most prevalent ones:
Demonstrating integrity as a leader is one who is dependable and consistent. This leader is a person who is honest and can be counted on to speak their truth related to any situation.
- A proven ability and willingness to delegate
The act of delegating goes well beyond freeing up the leader to address other issues. It conveys trust in others and helps to develop the team members’ skills that allow them to grow and increase their own value to the effort.
- Being Self-Aware in recognizing your own strengths and weaknesses
This enables one to use this knowledge in collaborating well with their team as it earns their respect as the leader willingly relies on others to accomplish the job at hand.
- Effective communication
This can come in many forms. It does not require comfort in standing on a soapbox and addressing the masses. It does mean the ability to convey ones’ thoughts, ideas and directions in any manner and assures all hearing them as intended. Communicating as such will have the desired clarity about what has and needs to happen going forward. The ability to communicate as such enhances the success of the endeavor.
- The ability and willingness to express gratitude to others
Ones’ reports work hard to earn the trust and recognition of their leader. For the leader, providing these costs absolutely nothing and earns the respect of those on the team. The result of often increased willingness to expend even more efforts to enhance the success of the purpose.
- The courage needed to address issues in real time
This means confronting a festering issue when it becomes apparent or putting forth an idea or opinion that may not initially be well receive. Courage and confidence in the role and responsibility of a leader allows this to happen and it’s a key ingredient of one’s success.
- Having and demonstrating respect for others
This is at the underlying foundation of successful leadership. In doing so the leader conveys their trust in others. It relieves natural tensions that can arise and improve overall effectiveness.
- Influencing others using logic and cooperation
Selling one’s idea of taking certain steps or positions is a leader-related skill that speaks to the effectiveness of one in that position.
Assuming the Role of Leader as an Introvert
I do not see any conflict in ways that an acknowledged introvert must live in that role. I know there are ways to approach the job that will cater to the perceived limit or approaches that the introverted leader possesses. Here are four keys to introvert success as leader:
- Closing your door … the actual office and/or your appointment calendar
As the introvert that leader knows that they simply cannot be ‘on’ all the time or unlimited amounts of time. Therefore, creating a schedule of back-to-back meetings or any other activity requiring working with another person robs you of the needed down time.
- Creating value as leader is important and needed.
However, whether this happens during or after the meeting is not what’s important. The leader must provide value. Doing so in ways that cater to one’s own comfort is the key that overrides ‘when.’
- Relationships DO matter. Just build them in your own style and manner
Certainly establishing trusted relationships with individuals is particularly important to being successful. Still, this doesn’t require ones’ getting on a soapbox in a public square to capture the attention and regard of all. Having a plan that enables this leader to develop a needed connection with another person will work even if one by one or with a frequency that feels right and comfortable.
- Needed interactions may take one out of their comfort zone … and that’s all right.
Knowing that one is an introverted leader is a terrific acknowledgement as that allows one to lead from a more natural and effortless position. However, there will also be those times when a team needs more interactions from their leader and it will require that the leader stretch for a period that will provide the team what they Just knowing that this is temporary can give the strength and willingness to this.
Knowing that a person who is leading can be highly effective being the introvert they consider themselves to be often brings a sigh of relief. They can advance and assume the leadership roled simply because they let go of associating successful leading with an outgoing, people pleasing personality. The traits of leading are the same for both extroverts and introverts. It is in the permissions we give ourselves to demonstrate key leadership traits and yet still be ourselves. So, introverts … you need quiet to concentrate, you are reflective, you take time making decisions, are very comfortable being alone and often prefer to write rather than talk. However, rather than turn down leadership opportunities … go after them. Your skills are needed and only your personal approach to the job may differ.