How to Be a Highly Successful Introverted Leader

Are you an introvert? Do you wonder if you can perform well as an introverted leader? 

I’m here to tell you that you can. Many leaders have performed extremely well, and they’re introverts. Introverts and extroverts both have diverse strengths and weaknesses.

It doesn’t matter if you are an introvert or an extrovert, you can be a solid leader. It’s all about how you use your strengths and limit the impact of your weaknesses.

What is an Introvert?

Introverts make up roughly 25-40% of the population. They are people who prefer calm, minimally stimulating environments. They tend to work best alone and can seem reserved or shy. People who know them well may think the introvert is cold or uncaring. In reality, they’re just taking time to turn on their social skills. They’re often good listeners and make insightful comments.

4 Types of Introverts

Psychologist Jonathan Cheek devised the STAR Model, which identifies four distinct shades of introverts: social, thinking, anxious, and restrained. This model serves as a comprehensive framework to better understand the complexities and nuances of introverted individuals.

  1. Social Introverts: Social introverts prefer small groups or one-on-one interactions as opposed to large gatherings. They enjoy meaningful connections and deeper conversations, often feeling more comfortable and energized in intimate settings. Social introverts are not necessarily shy; they simply value quality interactions over quantity.
  2. Thinking Introverts: Thinking introverts are characterized by their rich inner lives and vivid imaginations. They often engage in introspection and daydreaming, exploring creative ideas and theoretical concepts in their minds. While they may not actively seek social interactions as much as other types of introverts, they possess a strong sense of self-awareness and a deep understanding of their own thoughts and emotions.
  3. Anxious Introverts: Anxious introverts experience heightened levels of anxiety and self-consciousness in social situations. They may feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed by large groups and unfamiliar environments, often resulting in a preference for solitude. Anxious introverts may also experience persistent negative thoughts and worry about how they are perceived by others.
  4. Restrained Introverts: Restrained introverts tend to be more reserved and deliberate in their actions and communication. They may take longer to process information and make decisions, often observing and assessing a situation before taking action. Restrained introverts value thoughtfulness and may appear cautious or even aloof to others, but they are simply taking the time to ensure their actions are well-considered and intentional.

Although introverts may possess traits from multiple shades of the STAR Model, their commonality lies in their tendency to look inward and derive energy from their inner world. By understanding these different shades, we can better appreciate the unique strengths and perspectives introverts bring to both their personal and professional lives.

For more information on the types of introverts, see this great article from The Cut.

Does Being an Introvert Limit Success?

Being an introvert is no better or worse than being an extrovert. Both types of people can be successful at anything they do. Some situations favor one or the other but nothing is saying an introvert can’t be extroverted. It is all about personal growth and being willing to step out of your comfort zone when it’s best.

Can an Introvert Be a Good Leader?

Image of a person celebrating success for the introverted leader.

The popular belief is that extroverts make better leaders and introverts are the quiet ones in the back. This is just not true. Introverts have a lot of qualities that make them great leaders.

When people hear the term introvert, they typically think of someone too shy to do anything in the real world. On the contrary, many introverts are very good in groups and great with other people. 

Many introverts are great listeners. This skill comes in handy in all aspects of life, including leadership. Without the ability to listen well, communication is one-sided and becomes very poor.

Do Introverts or Extroverts Make Better Leaders?

In the age of social media, it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that leaders are extroverts. But what does the research say about the relationship between introversion and leadership?

In a recent study, researchers found that introverts make better leaders than extroverts. Their findings were based on a survey of more than 1,500 people in which participants rated their own personalities and also rated their leaders’ personalities. The researchers also looked at how other people rated the leaders’ personalities.

The results showed that extroverts had higher self-ratings compared to others’ ratings of their personality. This suggests that extroverts tend to overestimate their own positive qualities while underestimating negative ones. A phenomenon known as “self-enhancement bias.” Extroverted leaders were also more likely to engage in unethical behavior, according to another study.

Meanwhile, introverted leaders tended to receive higher ratings from others than from themselves—a phenomenon referred to as the “other-enhancement bias.” In other words, introverts tend not to overestimate themselves but rather underestimate themselves when compared with others’ ratings.

We all have our own strengths and weaknesses. The key is to learn how to use these strengths to our advantage and eliminate or minimize our weaknesses.

What are the Strengths and Weaknesses of Being an Introverted Leader?

Challenges of Introverted Leaders

Introverted leaders may not always promote the leadership image to those on the outside. This is due to their more quiet leadership style. They don’t brag about what they do or have done in the past. 

Also, they tend to have more self-doubt about their leadership skills. This is mainly because introverts focus on constantly looking at themselves in the figurative mirror. Our biggest critic is ourselves. We always think we could be doing better or doing more.

Strengths of Introverted Leaders

Many introverted leadership qualities can make you successful. I already discussed our ability to listen well, but this also means good emotional intelligence. Since we are constantly looking inside, we tend to understand our emotions better than most. 

Introverted leaders also tend to think first, before acting. They take the time to think through a problem and try to come up with a real solution. Rather than just trying to fix the symptoms of the problem. 

Furthermore, introverted leaders tend to stay calm in situations where many others lose their cool. This can help them be exceptional leaders in times of crisis.

Tips for Strong Introverted Leadership

Play to Your Strengths

Image of a spartan for strength.

Know what your strengths are as an introverted leader and use them. You have some areas that you perform exceptionally well. Focus on these areas.

If you perform well on solo projects, undertake more solo projects. Maybe you excel at administrative tasks. Look for opportunities to knock those out of the park.

Work on Your Weaknesses

In the previous tip, we talked about your strengths, this tip is focused on your weaknesses. We all have weaknesses, but we can’t completely avoid them. The goal is to limit your weaknesses. 

When it comes to weaknesses, we need to determine if the area is truly a weakness or is it a confidence issue. Meaning do you avoid this thing because you aren’t good at it or is it because you don’t like it?

The best way to turn a weakness into a strength is with practice. Practice will help with both confidence and abilities. 

When it comes to our weaknesses, we have to look for low-threat opportunities to practice. When the risk is high, we should find a strong team member with the skill to take the lead.

For example, let’s say you don’t like to talk in larger groups. Having a meeting with your team is a low threat, so you should look for opportunities to do this more often.

On the other hand, having a meeting with a big client is a little higher risk. You may want to either have one of your team members with an extroverted personality trait lead the meeting. Even if you don’t want them leading it, you may want to at least bring them along to facilitate conversation.

You should always be looking for opportunities to grow as a leader. Don’t let your weaknesses hold you back.

See Related: What Is Strategic Leadership and Management? How to Use It

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Image of a person in their comfort zone reading a book.

Stepping out of your comfort zone is crucial to both personal and professional development. If you stay in your comfort zone, you will stay exactly where you are. Getting out of your comfort zone will help you become more comfortable with your extroverted side.

When we can step out of our comfort zone, doors begin to open. We learn new skills and grow on many levels. This growth will be missed if we stick to our introverted ways and only do things like sitting inside reading novels all day.

Why do we get stuck in our comfort zone? It feels safe, and we like to feel safe, but it is not as rewarding. The big rewards come outside our comfort zone. 

You have to get a little more comfortable being uncomfortable. It just takes little steps to make huge leaps when it comes to your comfort zone. As you do more stuff you typically wouldn’t do, your comfort zone expands. Becoming bigger and bigger. Until you realize many things aren’t as bad as you make them out to be in your head.

Understand Who You Are

Emotional intelligence is a skill that is important for all leaders. This is the ability to understand our emotions and why we do what we do. 

Self-reflection is a key piece of understanding ourselves and becoming even better people. Take time each day to reflect on your day and yourself overall. The better you understand yourself and accept it, the stronger a leader you will be.

Quiet leaders normally spend a lot of time reflecting on themselves, but it needs to be done correctly to be productive. This is not a time to beat yourself up about how you failed. Figure out the why. Why did you fail, and how can you prevent it next time? Also, why did you succeed, and how can I duplicate that success?

Communication is Crucial

Many introverts struggle with face-to-face communication. If this is you, you need to work on your communication skills. Communication is a huge part of leadership and just about everything else in our lives. The good news is that communication is a skill. Like other skills, you can become a great communicator if you focus on improving this vital leadership skill.

Listening is a key component of communication. This is something most introverts excel at. Focus on what others are saying instead of worrying about what you are going to say next. Avoid getting lost in your head during conversations. This will cause you to completely miss what the other person is saying.

Work on being a facilitator during conversations. Ask open-ended questions to keep the conversation moving. This can work in one-on-one or group discussions. This is a trait of a good introverted leader.

If you need to think about something before responding, don’t be afraid to let the other person know. Silence can be awkward at times, but it’s a lot less awkward if you preface it. You can say something like “Let me think about that for a second”.

Learn to Lead From Behind

Image of a dog herding geese from behind.

A leader does not always need to be in the spotlight. It can be very beneficial to not necessarily get all the glory. For example, when your team is very successful on a project, your boss may congratulate you in front of everybody. Saying something like “I owe all the credit to the team. They make my job very easy.” 

This is a great way to put the spotlight on your team. Your team members will want to work even harder for you next time. The best leaders don’t hog all the glory. You don’t have to worry about looking good. The better your team performs, the better you as a leader look.

Connect With Your Team Members

Introverts sometimes don’t see the need to connect with others in many situations. This is important with your team members. Build a connection with them, and they will be more willing to work hard for you. Many times, introverts are seen as cold and uncaring because we don’t always seek out conversation or the company of others. This is typically not true and your team members will realize that when you allow them to get to know you a little better.

Building a connection with your team members is fairly easy. A little small talk can go a long way. You have to be genuinely interested in what the person is saying or risk coming off as fake. Even a simple “how was your weekend” can go a long way in fostering that relationship with your team.

Let Your Performance and Output Speak for You

When you work hard, people will notice. You don’t have to go around bragging about how much you do.

Meet or beat all your due dates and people will notice. Also, make sure that the product you are putting out is superior. Your results will build a positive image for you. 

Prepare for Meetings

Image of a group embracing after a work meeting.

Leading a meeting or even attending a meeting that you have a speaking part in, can be tough as an introverted leader. Having a plan will make it much easier. Know what points you want to get across before the meeting.

Even if it’s not your meeting, you want to be prepared. This means going over the meeting agenda if available. That will allow you to be prepared to answer anything concerning your area of responsibility.

Take the Time to Recharge

This is important for everybody to avoid burnout. As an introvert, it can be exhausting dealing with other people. Take the time to relax every day. This means different things for different people. For extroverts, it may mean going out to the club on a Friday night. Whereas us introverts, may prefer to curl up in a good book. 

A great way to recharge the system is through meditation. According to numerous studies, meditation is known to lower stress, decrease blood pressure, and of course, increase happiness. It can also be done in as little as 10-15 minutes a day.

Famous Introverted Leaders in History

Mark Zuckerberg

The creator of the biggest social media platform out right now is extremely introverted. He is known as a very shy and quiet person to strangers but very caring to his employees.

Abraham Lincoln

The 16th president is another great introverted leader in history that was known for his quietness.

Hillary Clinton

The former first lady and presidential candidate also is another highly successful introverted leader. 

Michael Jordan

He was one of the greatest basketball players of all time and also really enjoyed his alone time.

Barack Obama

The former president was also an introverted leader that made it to the top position in the U.S. government. This may be a little shocking because of how well he can give speeches.

As you can see, many introverted leaders have been highly successful throughout history. These are just some of them. There are many more successful introverted leaders. 

Building a Successful Team as an Introverted Leader

As an introverted leader, you may have been told that your quiet nature is a hindrance to team building and success. However, this is far from the truth. In fact, introverted leaders have unique strengths that can contribute positively to building a thriving team. Let’s discuss some strategies and insights that will help you, as an introverted leader, create a successful team.

1. Utilize your listening skills

Introverts have a natural ability to listen carefully and attentively. This trait is invaluable in understanding your team members’ needs, concerns, and perspectives. By actively listening, you demonstrate empathy and show your team that their opinions matter. This fosters trust, collaboration, and a sense of belonging within the team.

2. Embrace one-on-one interactions

As an introverted leader, you may feel more comfortable in one-on-one conversations. Use this to your advantage by scheduling regular individual check-ins with your team members. These meetings provide an opportunity to discuss their progress, address any challenges, and offer guidance. Team members will appreciate the personalized attention and support, which can contribute to increased motivation and job satisfaction.

3. Create a culture of open communication

Encourage open communication within your team by setting an example. Share your thoughts, ideas, and expectations clearly, and invite team members to do the same. Providing a supportive environment where everyone feels comfortable expressing their opinions will lead to better collaboration, innovation, and problem-solving.

4. Delegate effectively

Introverted leaders often possess strong analytical and problem-solving skills. Use these abilities to identify your team members’ strengths and delegate tasks accordingly. Delegating not only frees up time for you to focus on strategic planning but also empowers your team members, fostering a sense of ownership and commitment to their work.

5. Develop your team’s strengths

As an introverted leader, you have a unique understanding of the value of individual strengths. Help your team members identify and develop their own strengths by providing training, coaching, and feedback. This approach not only improves overall team performance but also boosts morale and job satisfaction.

6. Encourage a balance of introverted and extroverted qualities

A diverse team with a mix of introverted and extroverted personalities can lead to a more balanced and dynamic work environment. Encourage your team members to recognize and appreciate the strengths of different personality types, and foster an environment where each individual can contribute their unique talents and perspectives.

Building a successful team as an introverted leader is not only possible but also highly rewarding. By leveraging your natural strengths and adopting these strategies, you can create a collaborative, high-performing team that thrives under your thoughtful, attentive leadership. Remember, your introverted qualities are an asset, and with the right approach, you can lead your team to success.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome as an Introverted Leader

Imposter syndrome, the persistent belief that one’s success is undeserved or the result of luck rather than ability, can be particularly challenging for introverted leaders. It can lead to self-doubt, anxiety, and even burnout. However, with the right mindset and strategies, you can overcome imposter syndrome and embrace your role as a competent and effective leader. Here are some tips to help you conquer imposter syndrome as an introverted leader:

1. Recognize and acknowledge your accomplishments

As an introverted leader, you might downplay or overlook your achievements. It’s crucial to recognize the hard work and dedication you’ve put into your career. Keep a record of your successes, whether they’re big or small, and review them regularly to remind yourself of your capabilities and growth.

2. Accept praise and constructive feedback

Introverts may feel uncomfortable in the spotlight, but it’s important to accept praise and acknowledge your contributions. Embrace compliments and positive feedback as affirmations of your skills and leadership qualities. At the same time, be open to constructive feedback, which can help you grow and improve as a leader.

3. Reframe your self-talk

Negative self-talk can exacerbate imposter syndrome. Pay attention to the way you speak to yourself and work on reframing negative thoughts into more positive, constructive ones. For example, instead of thinking, “I don’t deserve this promotion,” remind yourself, “I’ve worked hard and earned this opportunity.”

4. Connect with other leaders

Build a support network of fellow leaders, both introverted and extroverted, who can provide guidance, encouragement, and insights. Sharing your experiences and learning from others can help normalize feelings of self-doubt and reinforce your confidence as a leader.

5. Focus on your strengths as an introverted leader

Introverted leaders possess unique qualities that contribute to effective leadership, such as active listening, empathy, and thoughtful decision-making. Embrace these strengths and use them to your advantage, rather than comparing yourself to extroverted leaders or trying to mimic their traits.

6. Seek professional development opportunities

Invest in your growth as a leader by seeking out professional development opportunities, such as workshops, courses, or coaching. Continual learning and self-improvement can help build your confidence and remind you of your competence as a leader.

7. Practice self-compassion

Finally, remember that no leader is perfect, and it’s okay to make mistakes. Practice self-compassion by acknowledging your imperfections, learning from your errors, and treating yourself with kindness and understanding.

Overcoming imposter syndrome as an introverted leader is a process that takes time and intention. By implementing these strategies and focusing on your unique strengths, you can build confidence in your abilities and lead your team with authenticity and assurance.

Final Thoughts

The bottom line is that you are capable of being a good leader even with an introverted personality. Don’t let a silly title like being an introvert stop you from getting out there and being the best version of yourself.

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