I was recently working with a female leader in a large organisation providing leadership coaching. She was particularly self-critical about her introversion and her perceived inability to feel comfortable in large group settings. However she found it very difficult to reflect on the benefits that her introversion bought to her workplace.
I think introversion is often considered the poor cousin to extraversion. We see extroverts as outgoing and self-confident, able to speak in front of large groups, be the centre of attention with ease and enjoy working as a member of a team. But introverts are often considered these solitary beings. They are perceived as being withdrawn, isolating themselves, not working well with others and even aloof.
However introverts tend to have qualities that very effectively facilitate leadership. They have the ability to focus for long periods of time, have a greater resistance to the kind of decision-making bias that can doom entire organisations, have less need for external validation of their self-concepts and usually have stronger listening, observing and synthesising skills.
It is a widespread misunderstanding that presence and self-confidence is reserved for extroverts. Presence in fact has nothing to do with extraversion. Introverts are every bit as likely to be able to develop presence as extroverts.
Author Susan Cain writes, “by their very nature, introverts tend to get passionate about one, two or three things in their life and in the service of their passion for an idea they will go out and build alliances and networks and acquire expertise and do whatever it takes to make it happen.” In other words one need not be loud or gregarious to be passionate and effective. A bit of quiet seems to go a long way towards being present.
So what are the benefits of being an introvert?
1) Introverts are thoughtful
We mustn’t confuse introversion with shyness. Being shy is the fear of social judgement, but being introverted means you think quietly before you speak. Introverts are internal processors that prefer to think through all the options before sharing their well reasoned opinions. This thoughtfulness can be especially welcome during times of confusion when too much talking can simply contribute to the clutter.
2) Their words carry weight
An introvert may not be the first, second or even third person to speak up. But this is in fact why their words can be very impactful. An introvert takes time to measure what they want to say and find the right time to weigh in. There are few things that can cut through the noise of a meeting as well as a thoughtful remark from the quiet person in the corner of the room.
3) Introverts have observation skills
When you’re not always focused on talking, you get to observe what others potentially overlook. Many famous artistic individuals like Stephen Spielberg and JK Rowling are identified as introverts because they allow themselves to turn their focus and attention inward toward their work. This ability is very helpful in a workplace. We need people who can sit down, focus and get work done.
4) Introverts are interested in self-knowledge
It comes naturally to introverts to inspect themselves, see where they can improve and work on professional and personal development. They usually have a particularly high level of self-awareness and utilise this knowledge to address the next step in emotional intelligence and address their self-management.
In reality, a thriving workplace needs the traits of both introverts and extroverts. But sometimes it feels like extroverts get all the attention. So remember if you have introverts in your team or are looking to hire an introvert into your team, consider the value that they can provide. Introverts are really happy to share if you give them the time and space. And if you are an introvert, celebrate your strengths.
Want to know more about building your presence? Contact me to discuss coaching to build your self-confidence, presence and mental toughness.
Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Psychologist, Organisational Consultant, Coach, Speaker and Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a credentialed Coach with the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited Mental Toughness practitioner. Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their Mental Toughness to improve performance, leadership, behaviour and wellbeing.