Would you consider yourself an introvert? If you are, you may assume that certain personality traits that come with your introverted nature will hold you back from being an effective and authoritative team leader. You may even have found yourself passed over in favour of stronger voices in your business. However, being naturally introverted shouldn’t hold you back from being a team leader – and here we take a closer look at why.
What is an introvert?
You may have heard the terms introvert and extrovert used casually, but these personality types can vary wildly in their leadership style and the kinds of tasks they are most comfortable with taking on. Of course, we associate extrovert qualities with natural leadership, and it is easy to see why – extroverts are social creatures who replenish their energy by being with others, which is often a key part of being a team leader. However, introverts gain energy by being alone and prefer quiet, small group or one-on-one settings. This may not seem like a natural team leader but, as an introvert, you have many talents that make team leadership a very achievable path.
Are extroverts born leaders?
While there are pros and cons to both introverts and extroverts as team leaders, there is still a lingering idea that extroverts make natural leaders. Therefore, it is worth debunking this – extroverts may appear more confident, but this leaning is not a guarantee of success in a leadership position. Extroverts can be prone to making quick and poorly considered decisions, and while they usually find it easy to speak to larger amounts of people, they can also find themselves speaking over quieter team members.
If you are an introvert, you will probably have experienced this firsthand in the workplace and beyond. With many great qualities such as friendliness and enthusiasm for practical, hands-on learning, extroverts can also prove to be distractible and emotional, and less diplomatic in some situations – which can actually reduce their suitability as team leaders.
Leadership challenges for introverts
If you are a natural introvert, you may note that even the cons of extroverts in leadership don’t sound that bad compared to the difficulties you face yourself. Challenges you may have faced when taking on leadership roles can include feeling shy and having difficulty advocating for yourself – especially if you have felt overlooked when applying for leadership roles before. You may also find that you 'lose your voice' in group environments and that you aren’t often considered immediately friendly. Even the classic introvert tendency to need time alone to recharge could appear to be at odds with leadership – and while all of these downsides are very real, they shouldn’t discourage you.
Would you believe it if you were told that introverts can make some of the best leaders due to the very natural tendencies that seem restrictive? In an increasingly volatile professional landscape, especially when it comes to finances, staffing and other resources, the introvert is a cautious and thoughtful presence. You may take longer to make decisions in a way that might frustrate an emotion-driven extrovert, but by taking the time to fully consider each step in a plan, process or project, you are far more likely to come up against fewer challenges as you proceed. This can save time and money, and give your team steadier guidance so they feel more secure and certain in their own roles.
Listening as a leader
The modern workplace seems set up for extroverts, with an increased emphasis on working as a collective and even the way offices are laid out nowadays. If you are sitting in an open plan space, you might feel that this alone can be difficult to manage as an introvert and could find yourself listening rather than holding forth. However, you may be surprised to realise that as a team leader, your role should not be to speak over your team but to listen to them.
Introverts make incredible listeners, and you are far more likely to gain a deeper understanding of those around you, allowing you to grasp their unique learning and working styles, and even whether they themselves are introverts or extroverts. This allows you to assign tasks appropriately, take on board more opinions and perspectives, and can lend itself to a more supportive and diverse workplace where everyone feels valued and free to share their thoughts.
Extroverts can be wonderfully supportive leaders, but their tendency to talk rather than listen can also translate into a reluctance to let those around them shine. Being an introvert, you may not favour being in the limelight at work, focusing rather on goals and taking time to consider every discussion.
This means that you are willing to take a step back and empower those around you to be the centre of attention where appropriate. Perhaps this means that you will ensure they take full credit for an idea, empower your team members to lead on a project rather than follow, or give them the chance to speak out in a high-level meeting with other teams. This not only makes your team members feel that they are making a valuable contribution, but it also gives them further opportunities for growth. Employees are often dissatisfied when they feel that their managers have taken credit for their ideas or hard work, which can be fairly common with extroverted leaders – as an introvert, you will tend towards encouraging your team to have their own voice and boost their morale.
Are you enthusiastic about leadership? As an introvert, you can bring your own unique perspective and qualities to team leadership to help provide balance in a working world that can often feel geared towards extroverts. As we have seen, there are so many advantages to introverted employees, especially when it comes to those in leadership positions. With confidence and conscious choices, those who are naturally introverted can be some of the strongest team leaders in any organisation.