Great Leaders: Simple Steps of An Introvert’s Journey to Leadership

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Leadership is not about title or a position in society. A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.

John Quincy Adams once said: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader”.

As an introvert, it’s hard for you to see yourself in the role of a leader. You like being with people, but only with the ones you know. You feel good being alone and you want to avoid too much interaction with crowds. It’s okay to accept your introverted side. However, you can’t allow it to prevent you from achieving your full potential.

Let us realize that: introverts can be great and influential leaders. In fact, some of the most influential leaders throughout history were introverts. The struggle is real, though. You’ll have to force yourself to make more contact and stand strongly behind your points of view.

I will picture here a seven step ladder an introvert can climb to achieve his potentials as an influential leader.

Step One: Improve your one-to-one communication skills

If you’re like most introverts, you’re good at one-to-one communication. Work on that skill to enhance it; it will make you a better leader. This type of communication requires careful listening. You’re not giving a lecture; you’re taking part in a conversation. Since you want to be a leader, you’ll need to support that conversation

Practice talking to people: You can relax when you talk to people you know, but do you initiate conversations? That’s the weakest characteristic of most introverts — they don’t take initiative. You want to change that. Talk to people!  If you’re already leading a team, inform them about the goals of your organization and the progress you’re making. Ask for ideas and initiate conversations. It won’t be easy, but you’ll get better with practice.

Step Two: Abandon your comfort zone

Your family, a nice movie, and a close circle of friends — that’s your comfort zone. When doing your job, you make an effort to be as professional as possible, but you don’t want to be in the spotlight. You’ll need to work on that. A good leader is not afraid to take risks. “Comfort zone” is not a term mentioned with a positive connotation in leadership books. Challenge yourself! Take the spotlight! Sooner or later, you’ll have to step out of that box. It’s better to do it sooner.

Step Three: Rely on technology: If you’re like most introverts, you choose emails over phone calls or face-to-face communication. That’s okay. Whenever you have a chance, you can choose an online platform to communicate with your team. You don’t have to arrange frequent conference calls and meetings. Try various collaborative tools that let you keep the team together. Trello, Slack, and Yammer are only a few to consider, but there are many more.

Step Four: Recharge your batteries:

Unlike an extrovert, you’re not getting your energy through social contacts. You’re losing it. After a few hours of socializing, you feel exhausted and you need your personal space back. That’s okay.

Beth Buelow, coach and CEO of The Introvert Entrepreneur, gives good advice: “You’ll do your best work if you have a healthy combination of solo planning and public interaction. Make — and honor — appointments with yourself, with no interruptions. Plan for two hours of downtime for every one hour of public time.”     Keep gaining your energy back with some “me time” after each working day. Practice yoga, read a book, watch a movie, or do whatever else you like. Don’t be afraid to take that alone time when you need it.

Step Five: Respect your common sense in conflict situations

Do you know what’s the biggest challenge for an introvert leader? Resolving conflicts within the team. When a conflict occurs, you’ll want to stay away from it and wait for the employees to sort things out amongst themselves. That’s exactly what you shouldn’t do. As an introvert, you have the strength of empathy. You can understand how other people feel, so you can see the different sides of the conflict. What does your common sense tell you? Analyze the situation and propose a solution that’s good for everyone.

Step Six: Act like you’re the most confident person in the room

Speaking in front of an audience is a huge challenge. You’re overwhelmed by emotions, stress, thoughts, and expectations. Don’t show that inner doubt. Act like you’re confident, invite the listeners to ask questions, and give confident answers. Ask yourself: how would an extrovert act? You’ll slowly but surely get into that role. Share expectations: Most people are not used to working with introvert leaders. They expect a leader who keeps giving instructions and tips. You don’t want to surprise the team members with a quiet approach. Just tell everyone what to expect from the specific project. Moreover, let them know what they can expect from you as a leader.

Step Seven: Acknowledge empathy as your greatest strength

You envy extroverts because they always get the spotlight? Well, they should envy you for having the strength of empathy. You’re able to get inside people’s minds and realize what they are experiencing. This is your greatest strength as a leader. You can understand everyone’s side in a conflict, and you can realize when a particular employee needs a push. Take your strong sense of empathy even further. Make it part of your leadership style!  You won’t be a great leader just because you’re an introvert. An extrovert won’t be a great leader just because they feel comfortable interacting with people. One’s leadership style depends on many other elements you’ll have to work on. However, it’s important to remember that being an introvert doesn’t prevent you from becoming a good leader.

In our next edition, we shall be looking at: “Are you a Leader or a Manager?”

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