People often illustrate introverts as reserved and quiet, socially awkward, solitary and soft-spoken. These qualities may make it seem that introverts lack the confidence and social skills that leaders, pioneers, and change makers possess. But you may be surprised to learn that . Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Marissa Meyer, Mark Zuckerberg, Guy Kawasaki, and Barack Obama are only a few of the famous leaders and innovators who consider themselves introverts.
Their success proves that leadership is not monopolized by those with an outgoing, socially-affable, and highly-confident temperament. In fact, despite an extroverted environment, introverts can also take the reins in an organization. Here are six qualities that introverts can leverage to harness effective management and leadership skills:
1. Listen first, talk later.
Introverts tend to shy away from small talk because it drains their energy. Typically, they prefer to stay on the sidelines and listen first, and weigh in with their own viewpoint later (or when asked). A managed by Francesca Gino, associate professor at Harvard Business School, shows that introverted bosses with active teams can be extremely successful, because they patiently listen to what their team members have to say.
This trait allows introverts to be especially effective leaders, since successful collaboration requires effective communication. Introverts tend to evaluate the full picture of a situation, carefully prepare what they are going to say, and add comments and instructions that are well thought out and clearly communicated.
2. Step up during times of crisis.
In her book, , clinical psychologist Laurie Helgoe claims that introverts have an "internal power—the power to birth fully formed ideas, insights, and solutions. [...] An introvert who sits back in a meeting, taking in the arguments, dreamily reflecting on the big picture, may be seen as not contributing—that is, until he works out the solution that all the contributors missed."
Combine this with introverts’ ability to listen intently to their colleagues and weigh different perspectives, and they can be a valuable voice of reason in times of crisis.
3. Get out of your comfort zone.
Because of their low social energy, small talk can be cumbersome for introverts, which makes networking difficult. But because networking is key to opening up important business opportunities, it requires introverts to step outside of their comfort zone a bit. Introverts actually can use their natural sincerity to lessen their anxiety and better engage others in conversation, making meaningful connections.
4. Use your writing skills.
Introverts prefer to communicate in writing because it allows them to organize their ideas as they pen their thoughts. writer Cecil Murphy says, “Introverts can utilize social media as an effective platform for voicing their ideas and realizations, and directing their audience towards their cause. What they struggle to express verbally, they can elucidate through a combination of compelling text and visual content.”
5. Take time to recharge.
Given the , engaging in too many group activities and events drains them. Once their social energy is used up, introverts tend to withdraw from their surroundings in search of rejuvenation. Taking some time to work individually is essential to keeping efficiency and productivity high.
As an introvert, set aside time during your day to get back into your contemplative zone and re-energize. You can actually use this time to come up with new strategies and ideas, and surprise your company with the surge in enthusiasm and passion at work.
6. Use collaboration and communication apps.
Going digital can be especially advantageous for introverts, since they can preserve their social energy for in-person meetings with important clients and business partners, while staying connected with their team. Instant messaging, collaboration, and work management apps like can bring enhanced communication, transparency, and accountability to the workplace.
Successful managers, executives, and leaders are not defined by their personality. They are defined more by how they handle critical situations, guide their team to achieve their goals, and inspiring those around them while being true to themselves.
Joan Selby is a former ESL teacher and content marketer at . She also runs her own about social media and writing tips. Joan is a Creative Writing graduate, fancy shoe lover, writer by day and reader by night. Connect with her on and .