According to Deniz S. Ones, Stephan Dilchert, and other researchers, many executives and leaders display extrovert characteristics. This dovetails nicely with popular perceptions of leadership. When most of us think of someone who occupies the corner office or heads a company, we imagine an A-type personality, complete with the power handshake and sports car. And popular culture just pushes the message home. The covers of business magazines are almost always graced with people who look supremely confident and most movies and TV shows feature bosses who are anything but shy.
Is there any hope for a leader who is not the go-getter extrovert type?
Research suggests that the answer is a resounding yes – something that most employees have known instinctually for some time. Introverted leaders can get ahead, especially since they have some skills that are mission critical for business:
• Listening. Leaders who listen can reap the rewards of other people’s expertise and can make customers and employees feel valued. Introverts often excel at listening, which can actually help them build connections and make better decisions.
• Quiet. Yes, being able to speak confidently is important – but so is quiet. In negotiations, for example, being able to pause and stay quiet is crucial. Marketer Liz Tahir recommends quiet pauses in consultations – and so do many experts.
• The ability to build loyalty. Many employees don’t necessarily want a boss who is loud and talkative. Many team members appreciate someone who listens to them and thinks before speaking. Introverts may not always seek out social situations or small talk, but they can be more adept at building true connections and loyalty.
If you want a leadership role but are a little shy, take heart. Many of the world’s leaders are in fact introverts and there are several things that you can do to capitalize on the advantages you already have to succeed:
1) Build on your strengths.
You don’t need a personality transplant. Revel in the fact that you have more depth and use the advantages you do have to succeed. For example, if you don’t shine at in-person meetings, host group meetings so that other members of your team can help you.
2) Use technology to connect.
This is a great time to be an introvert, since so many connections happen through online mediums, where there is a layer of distance between you and your audience. Use social media, text, collaboration tools, and email professionally. Extend beyond your comfort zone using technology, contacting people you might hesitate to contact in person.
3) Address the issues.
Quiet leaders sometimes feel overlooked. They also sometimes struggle to make decisions or to speak up when they need to. If there are things about being shy that bother you or you feel hold you back, tackle those problems if you can’t work around them. If you suffer social anxiety, for example, look for support. If you are worried about your speaking skills, get a reliable coach to help you present like the pro you are.
Einstein, Ghandi, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and other introverts didn’t let their shyness stop them from taking names and becoming huge successes on their own terms. The solitude, thinking, and quiet that you are comfortable with as a shy leader could be the very things that take you to the top.