Introverts Are Leaders, Too featured image

Introverts Are Leaders, Too

By: Ayse Gulenc Hosein

~ 4 minute read

Exploring How to Be A Leader, As an Introvert

Are you an introvert who dreams of becoming a leader but feels like the world of leadership is dominated by extroverts? Have you been told your quieter, more contemplative nature could be a barrier to success in leadership roles? Well, here’s a fresh perspective for you: You don’t have to be an extrovert to be a great leader. In fact, being an introvert can come with its own set of strengths and advantages that are invaluable in leadership positions.

An introvert’s leadership potential is commonly overlooked, when compared to extroverts. According to the Predictive Index behavioral assessment, extroversion is often associated with sociable, outgoing, and expressive qualities. Someone with lower extroversion (or, an introvert) is typically more private, introspective, and analytical. However, introverts should not feel discouraged by these stereotypes, but learn to lean into their individual strengths.

In her book “Quiet,” Susan Cain writes that introverts possess unique qualities that can make them exceptional leaders. One such quality is their ability to process information more carefully than others, leading to effective problem-solving. So, how can you be a successful leader as an introvert? Let’s explore the challenges you might face and the strengths you bring to the table.

The Challenges of Being a People Leader, as an Introvert

One of the primary challenges introverts face as people leaders is the common trait that they are slower at building relationships and trusting others. This can lead to being labeled as “standoffish,” “timid,” or even “not caring.” However, introverts take their time connecting with others and, as a result, build meaningful relationships and are fiercely loyal once trust is established.

Additionally, an introvert’s innate ability to stay neutral and objective can sometimes be negatively interpreted as being “aloof.” This can create barriers to effective communication and collaboration, as team members may perceive a lack of engagement. However, introverts are often quite engaged, they just display it more subtly than others.

Another common challenge introverted leaders face is the tendency to mistake brainstorming or casual conversations about problems and issues as a request for them to provide a solution. It’s important for introverted leaders to clarify the purpose of such discussions by asking questions like, “I hear you saying [insert issue/problem]…are we problem-solving, or is there something else you would like to figure out or address?” With self-awareness and clear communication, introverts can readily engage in informal brainstorms and casual conversations.

The Strengths of the Introverted Leader

Introverts have a unique set of strengths that can make them highly effective leaders:

  • Quiet. They give others the airtime they need during discussions and don’t feel the need to fill every moment of silence.
  • Clear. Introverts excel in sincere communication, carefully considering their words before speaking, which leads to more direct and clear communication.
  • Calm. They tend to remain naturally calm, cool, and collected, even in high-pressure situations.
  • Bolstering. Introverted leaders don’t crave the spotlight; instead, they focus on highlighting their team’s accomplishments and strengths.
  • Sincere. Their ability to create deep, meaningful relationships fosters trust, safety, and security within their teams, thanks to their sincere and non-superficial communication style.

Leaning into strengths is the best path to success because it allows introverted leaders to bring their authentic self to leadership, fostering genuine connections and achieving remarkable results.

an Asian American woman in a red plaid shirt and an African American woman wearing in a patterned shirt look at a computer monitor together.
As a leader, it’s important to self-reflect on your strengths and then consider how you may need to adapt your natural style to meet the needs of your team members.

Pivots to Become a More Effective People Leader

Nobody is perfect. To become a more effective people leader as an introvert, here are some important pivots to consider:

  1. Shift Your Mindset. Don’t believe the lie that you have to become extroverted in order to be a successful leader. Embracing your introverted qualities can lead to authentic and impactful leadership.
  2. Assess Needs. Resist the urge to jump immediately into “problem-solving mode.” Consider the need for your direct report– do they need you to fix it or do they need to talk things out? Take the time to listen, understand, and ask thoughtful questions before attempting to fix issues.
  3. Practice Self-Awareness. Although your natural inclination is to prioritize tasks, shift your focus to the people you work with. Their feelings and emotions impact work so take time to connect and empathize. 

Introverts Can Be Leaders, Too

In conclusion, being an introvert should never be seen as a barrier to leadership. Introverted leaders can be just as effective as their extroverted counterparts, and they bring unique strengths to the table. To excel in leadership, it’s crucial to lean into your own leadership style, trust your instincts, and understand that introversion is not a limitation but an advantage.

So, if you aspire to be a more effective leader, remember that introverts have their own path to success. Consider using a leadership team assessment like the Predictive Index Behavioral Assessment™ to embrace your authenticity, build strong relationships, and harness the power of sincere communication. Your journey as an introverted leader can be incredibly rewarding, both for you and your team.

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Ayse Gulenc Hosein

Operations wizard who loves turning plans into action. Outside work, she's a yoga enthusiast, avid reader, and world explorer, balancing life as a wife, mom, and pet owner.