It may seem counterintuitive to suggest that introverts – those individuals who live inside their own heads and aren’t the happiest around large crowds – could make effective leaders. But, taking a look at a few well known introverted leaders like Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Albert Einstein, and Abraham Lincoln can quickly dispel the myth that one cannot be both introverted and a great leader. In fact, some of the best introverted leaders will use those tendencies to push themselves ahead of the pack. Here are five reasons why introverts excel as leaders:
They Take The Time To Think Things Over
Extroverts draw energy and meaning from being surrounded by people – and it’s no secret that they also enjoy being the center of attention. While this approach will typically give extroverts more opportunities to explore a broader range of topics, it also prevents them from having the quiet time needed to delve deep into any one subject.
Introverts, on the other hand, prefer solitude and quite environments. They enjoy reflecting on the deeper and hidden meanings of a topic, and are seldom satisfied with the superficial understanding that is gained by the extrovert. It’s in their desire for solitude and deeper reflection that give introverts the edge that can only be gained from a clear and full understanding of a subject.
They Remain Cool in the Face of Adversity
By their very nature, introverts tend to be calm and level-headed. Situations that can often cause the typical extrovert to fly off the handle, will be taken in strides by the introvert.
According to author and introvert expert Susan Cain, Warren Buffet’s introverted personality allows him to think “carefully when those around him lose their heads.”1 This ability to remain calm under pressure has allowed Buffett to prosper as an investor, even when Wall Street itself crashed.
They Are Thoughtful and Prepared
While extroverts tend to “fly by the seat of their pants,” introverts are known to hold their tongues and only speak once they have a clear understanding of what they will say. Introverts think carefully through a situation before responding, which in turn gives their words more weight and power. When you have a reputation for being thoughtful, others tend to listen attentively and take your words more seriously.
Preparedness extends far beyond simply speech. Since Introverts spend so much time thinking deeply about issues, problems, and strategies, they are often more prepared, when the time comes, to solve a problem or implement a particular strategy.
They Spend More Time Listening
It’s an established fact that the best communicators tend to be the best listeners. Someone who doesn’t listen fails to pick up on subtle clues that could assist them in being more effective communicators. Popular speech reflects this fact – “When you talk to him you can’t get a word in edgewise.” Too much talking negates your ability to communicate.
While extroverts have a tendency to enjoy talking, introverts have a preference to listen first and then respond. Since introverts are almost always naturally good listeners, it is safe to say that they are almost always better communicators as well.
They Are More Influential
Introverts are often seen by those they are leading as quiet, attentive, masters of detail, easy to communicate with, and serious. As mentioned, these qualities give their words more prominence than those of an extrovert – who is often seen as a “blow hard” or “loud mouth” due to their tendency to focus the conversation on themselves and shut down lines of communication.
The net result is that introverted leaders tend to have more influence over those they lead. This may ring true for anyone who has worked under a very extroverted manager before. The extroverted manager tends to lead from a position of authority, while exerting their will over their underlings. For anyone who has worked in such a situation, will know that this type of “leader” is not influential, but rather a figure whose opinions are more than likely treated with disdain.
Although introverts don't always fit into our stereotypes of the typical leader, their thoughtful, democratic approach can bring unique benefits to positions of power and influence. It's time we recognize that introverts can be great leaders too.
1 Cain, Susan Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. Broadway Books, 2013.