Introverts as Leaders (Briefly)

Introverts have two unique strengths that, I believe, can lead towards opportunities to be stronger leaders:

  1. Introverts are professional listeners. Their natural state is to observe and gather data from the world around them as opposed to their extroverts counterparts who enjoying spending their time talking about the state of the world and all the fascinating data in the world… endlessly. This listening skill is amplified by the fact that introverts don’t much want to talk about themselves, so out of necessity they’ve developed a good conversation toolkit to get others to talk about themselves thus lessening their talking burden.

  2. All of this listening results in the acquisition of data and all of this data results in better situational awareness. This awareness of what is going on in the immediate vicinity is amplified by the introverts deep desire to avoid interpersonal conflict. They have developed a strong early warning system around conflict amongst humans which means introverts are often aware of developing conflict well ahead of the actual conflict.

Both strengths result in a better picture of the social state amongst a group of humans. The trick for the introvert as leader is the proactive usage of that information. These strengths have been developed over years as a necessity to avoid human interaction, but in order to lead, we must ignore our instincts to run and hide from emerging conflict and rather use our well developed listening skills to not only understand what is developing, but how we’re going to lead through that distinctly uncomfortable situation.

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6 Responses

  1. Juan Cruz Nores 1 year ago

    It might be, but when the’re bad they are awful. Introverts also hate confrontation of any kind, they’re usually shy. They are extremely stressed out, and even if they see things coming they may not do enough about it to change it, or worse, they may think they have done enough, but it’s not perceived by others as such.

  2. “They have developed a strong early warning system around conflict amongst humans which means introverts are often aware of developing conflict well ahead of the actual conflict.”

    I definitely feel I have that warning system. But as an introvert I definitely don’t shy away from conflict–especially not in work situations. I’ve discovered the absolute requirement that if I don’t put up a fuss now the thing I’m worried about happening will happen anyway and it will be way worse to deal with now. I’d rather have the fight now with less stress/deadline than under a deadline and something on the line. Even if I lose–then I get to say “I told you so” when it happens like I said it would

  3. Great article! I definitely agree that listening is a key strength of introverts, but would add introspection pretty high on that list too.

    At least, in my experience, introverts more often reflect upon what has happened, learn the lessons, and apply them the next time.

    Of course, the benefits of introspection are not limited to leadership, but all areas where deliberate practice can improve performance.

  4. ubercurmudgeon 1 year ago

    Another reason for an introvert to pretend to be an extrovert in order to become a leader: it’s about the only way, outside the world of academia, that you might get a private office. Even then it’s unlikely, but in my experience (in Britain) the days are long gone when it was considered a good thing for those with expertise to be able to concentrate, in some semblance of a quiet working environment. Now, the only experts who are respected are consultants delivering training in one of the various bullshit extrovert-orientated project management methodologies, because they teach how to cover up piss-poor work by blathering about it in incessant meetings. According to the new orthodoxy, everything else can be looked up on the Internet, and done (badly) by several off-shore workers, for cost of every one home-office-based expert, then the extrovert managers get to pull some mediocre compromise out of the chaos at the last minute. Much more satisfying (for them) than waiting for a true expert to go away (to their once-quiet offices) then come back and deliver a genuinely good, coherent solution.