Career Advancement

5 ways to lead as an introvert

Photo credit: elicefeliz, Creative Commons/Flickr

Photo credit: elicefeliz, Creative Commons/Flickr

We’ve talked before about how to search for a job as an introvert. But once you’ve landed a job, how do you demonstrate those coveted leadership skills, so often attributed to extroverts?

First, you have to identify the skills you have as an introvert that are critical to leading. According to Susan Cain—author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking—these skills include reflection, vision, judgement, and caution. So although you may work in a world where talking, taking immediate action, and day-by-day planning rule, there are a few ways to leverage your unique skills as an introvert to lead:

1. Turn relationships into funding. Reflection and listening are critical characteristics when it comes to fundraising, according to the Nonprofit Times. Harness these skills to build relationships and raise money for your organization. You can also demonstrate these skills and share them with the rest of the development team to help them grow.

2. Empower employees. Organizations led by introverts succeed when employees are able to shine. According to Francesca Gino, associate professor at Harvard Business School, if you prefer to not be in the spotlight, your employees are able to step up and get things done.

3. Encourage reflection in decision-making. As an introverted leader, you’ll likely want to take your time thinking through a decision, asking for input, and reflecting on possible outcomes. Doing so doesn’t just reduce the likelihood of errors; it also ensures that actions remain aligned to values, vision, and purpose.

4. Make the most out of meetings. If you cherish having time to think before taking action, you can maximize the productivity of meetings. Do this by settling on an agenda and thinking of ideas prior to gathering; following up with people after a meeting instead of requiring on-the-spot participation; and limiting meetings in general to allow more time and space for reflection and work.

5. Step out of your comfort zone. While it’s important to honor one’s limits, being a leader often requires individuals to step out of their comfort zones, regardless of whether they are introverted or extroverted. Identify the key areas you need to develop in order to lead more effectively—this may mean taking on more public speaking engagements or learning to make quicker decisions—and set aside time to strengthen these skills.

Whether you are an introvert, extrovert, or somewhere in between, leading can be both a rewarding and challenging experience; the key is to leverage your strengths.

Are you an introverted leader? How do you work to keep your leadership skills sharp?

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