If we want to effective leaders it’s time we changed our assumptions about what sort of people they should be, argues executive coach Claire Brown
There continues to be a myth that vocal, charismatic extroverts make the most successful leaders. We tend to associate volume and visibility with confidence and competence, so those who are seen and heard tend to be perceived as the better leaders.
However, experience tells us that strong effective leaders come in all shapes and sizes with different communication preferences, personality types and leadership styles. Opportunities for achieving professional success exist whether you consider yourself to be an introvert, extravert, omnivert, ambivert or reject labels of any sort.
The most effective leaders are those who are able to achieve their goals and bring about the best possible outcomes by inspiring those around them. They unlock the true potential that exists within their teams all while being true to themselves and modelling authentic leadership. Therefore, depending upon the dynamics, culture and personalities within the organisation, an introverted leader may be better suited to supporting those with whom they’re working.
There are many different types of effective leadership and throughout your career there will no doubt be various opportunities to demonstrate your value in some form of leadership capacity whether it be leading on a specific project, overseeing a department or heading up the entire organisation.
Depending upon the dynamics, culture and personalities within the organisation an introverted leader may be better suited to supporting those with whom they’re working”
How to thrive in a leadership role as an introvert
In order to thrive in a leadership role, the key is to harness your unique skills and strengths for the benefit of everyone. Introverts have the potential to make fantastic leaders thanks to their reflective skills, critical thinking, active listening skills, rapport building, creative problem-solving and ability to think through complex problems. Often introverts don’t feel a need to be in the limelight which enables them to promote and develop others and allow them to shine.
If you consider yourself an introvert, here are some tips to ensure you thrive in a leadership role:
Use effective listening skills – introverts have a tendency to be great listeners, so employ active listening and be fully present as you invite contributions and perspectives from your team members.
Respond thoughtfully and intentionally – reflect back to your colleagues what you’ve heard to build high trust effective working relationships. Make meaningful connections by engaging in sincere authentic conversations.
Present thoughtful contributions – critical, deep thinkers who approach problem-solving in creative, well thought out and detail-oriented ways are a real asset to the organisation, so if you recognise a challenging situation and identify an effective response to address this, present and advocate for your ideas so you can demonstrate your value in this way.
Assert yourself – introverts are often great in a crisis having listened, reflected and fully formed a solution to respond to a stressful situation. When high pressure scenarios occur, speak up to voice your suggestions of how to resolve the issue
Practice self awareness – sometimes introvert personalities can be misunderstood where their thoughtfulness and reflective thinking can be perceived as aloofness or disinterest. Own your behaviours by communicating clearly to those around you so that you can be known, understood and others can adapt and respond to your leadership style. For example, “if you see me pause or look away, that’s because I’m thinking.”
Commit to taking imperfect action – thanks to their reflective nature, introverts can tend to overthink before taking action. Choose to adopt a positive mindset and view action taking as a valuable learning experience. Not all ideas need to be fully formed in order to achieve a successful outcome.
The role of mindset in becoming an effective leader
Mindset plays a significant role in realising your potential to become a strong and effective leader. You may have come across the saying that success is 80% mindset and 20% strategy, but embodying that positive mindset in order to make the leap to a leadership position can feel stretching.
This is especially true if you have historically fulfilled more supportive or subservient roles in your career to date, which can often be the case for more introverted personalities. You may be used to waiting for permission or an invitation to offer your contribution, so this mindset shift from “employee to CEO” or “follower to leader” can create a huge challenge in pushing yourself towards more leadership opportunities and have a substantial impact upon your career development.
Like any undeveloped skill, adopting a positive mindset requires daily commitment and practice. Strong leaders are often described as visionaries; they know exactly what they want to achieve and commit to making it happen. Many of the clients I work with lack clarity and direction for their professional future and through their commitment and engagement in the coaching process they start to really focus, invest in and commit to making their hopes a reality.
It’s this shift from the reactive to the proactive, bringing to the forefront of our minds the things that really matter that creates a mindset that advocates action and risk taking. You begin to take greater ownership and control of your own professional success rather than waiting for opportunities to be offered or invitations to be extended. So, if you want to advance in your career and become a successful leader or perhaps set up your own thriving business, start identifying practical ways in which you can begin to embody a more positive mindset:
How to find your authentic leadership style that feels natural to you – aside from adopting a positive mindset, in order to lead successfully, you need to embrace who you are and the unique contribution you offer. Here are some practical suggestions of how you can uncover your own authentic leadership style:
Know your personality – in order to determine what kind of leader you want to be, you need to know what kind of person you are. Consider the key aspects of your personality and how these play out in your relationships. There are numerous assessments and psychometric tests you can take to gain greater insights about what motivates and energises you. Here’s a free personality assessment you can access.
Identify your values – our values are core to our DNA and they determine all of our decisions, actions and behaviours. By clarifying who you are and expressing what’s most important to you, will enable you to lead with great authenticity.
Recognise your strengths and weaknesses – by having a clear sense of where your strengths and weaknesses lie will enable you to harness the things you excel in and can offer as a leader whilst addressing the things you find more challenging and filling the gaps as needed.
Seek feedback – leaders who are able to practise humility and seek feedback models an openness to learn and helps to create a culture in which it’s safe to fail and grow. By embracing feedback from your colleagues, you’re able to respond to their needs and continually improve your performance.
Learn from other leaders – consider those people who you admire and have perhaps supported or mentored you along the way. What about them do you respect? What do they model well as effective leaders? What would you like to embody as a result of having known them? Carve out opportunities to listen and learn from them.