Leaders are the people that others follow; not because the lead person has special DNA or special powers, but because they influence others in a way that causes others to want to follow them. There is a big difference between being a leader and being a boss. I mean seriously, who likes being “bossed” around by people who are all talk, no action, and self-important? Those people throw around commands, never lift a finger to help, and only take responsibility for successes (but never the failures). I’d much rather work with, and for, someone who’s willing to be out front and lead by example. Wouldn’t you?
So we can say not all introverts are good leaders… but good leaders can be introverted. Good leadership is not defined by one personality style over another; however, well-rounded, skilful introverts can be some of the best leaders in society. Throughout history, some of the most influential leaders of our time have been introverted by nature and contributed significantly to humanity. Who says you aren’t the next one on the list?
Successful Introverts In History
In Jennifer Kahnweiler’s book, “The Introverted Leader”, she highlights Mark Zuckerberg, Arianna Huffington, and Warren Buffett as perfect examples of introverts who have reached the top of their chosen field.
Inc.com published an article on July 20, 2015, titled “23 of the Most Amazingly Successful Introverts in History.” Among those listed are Albert Einstein (ok, seriously, who didn’t know he’d be listed, right?), Rosa Parks, Bill Gates (another “duh” moment), Steven Spielberg, Sir Isaac Newton, Eleanor Roosevelt, JK Rowling, and Michael Jordan.
What qualifies these people to be listed as leaders of our time? Their ability to connect with people outside personal world with their ideas and beliefs, and then influence others to follow them (or at least their ideas). In short, people listen to what they have to say and are changed by those ideas.
What Qualities Make A Good Leader?
Since leadership isn’t about being introverted or extroverted, let’s talk about what characteristics a good leader should have to influence others:
All good leaders have a kind of focus that keeps them goal and mission driven. They define the mission and diligently work toward that end, problem-solving as they go along. Introverts often exhibit this characteristic because they can be very focused and they are thoughtful and contemplative, working to find solutions and processes. This kind of focus in leaders shows others the commitment and passion of the leader, which establishes a “buy-in” baseline for followers.
Good leaders can organize thoughts and communicate them to others clearly, allowing others to take ownership and follow along. I guess you could say, they inspire others with their thoughts and ideas. Good communication comes naturally to some and must be developed for others. Introversion shouldn’t be confused with shyness, as I’ve mentioned in my Best Job For Introverts Without A Degree article. Shyness can affect your communication, but it can be overcome, and confidence can be developed. Well-developed communicators are a key attribute of good leaders.
Leaders who are empathetic become people who others want to follow. You could say they build a rapport with others, allowing them to be team focused rather than self-promoting. This like-minded chemistry creates synergistic teams and people love to be a part of these kinds of projects.
Good leaders, through interaction and time, build trustworthiness through honesty and integrity while dealing with others. This quality alone builds the foundation for others to have confidence in the leader and reduces the fear of the unknown. Primarily, it’s the ability to make decisions that is being displayed and that is being proven as an example. So of course, others follow them!
A Willingness to be Accountable
Accountability and ownership of the ideas and processes come as part of good leadership too. Leaders are willing to put themselves on the line both in word and deed, reinforcing confidence in others. All good leaders experience failures, the difference is they don’t stop with a failure. They evaluate and problem-solve, then get back on the proverbial “horse” and ride.
Ability to Delegate and Empower Others
Once a leader shows themselves as trustworthy to those they are dealing with and communicating with, delegation of tasks is met with assurance and confidence. There is nothing for a delegate to fear when they trust and believe in the person they are following. With the delegation, good leaders empower others. Leaders understand they can’t carry out the mission as a one-man show and they not only need, but want, others to succeed right alongside themselves.
How Do Introverts Become Good Leaders?
Now that we have identified what a good leader looks like, we can come back to the idea that introverts can be good leaders. I believe that being a good leader is something one develops into, it’s not something we are born with. Anyone can be a good leader with a little determination.
In many ways, introverts have a head start in developing their leadership skills because they are comfortable with contemplative thought and uninterrupted times of focus. Introverts are intentional with their word choices because of their thought life, so the ability to be good communicators is just waiting to be released. The same with being empathetic, introverts consider multiple facets of situations and personalities before making judgements about people. Introverts also have the ability to be open minded, before making snap-decisions. This skill serves good leaders well.
While trustworthiness is an individual moral and ethical standard, introverts are generally honest with themselves and situations. Shyness and insecurity will sometimes sabotage an honest person, through the desire to protect themselves with vague responses and a failure to take ownership in hard situations. This challenge can be developed just like muscles in the body. So, if you struggle to be bold and confident, press forward and challenge yourself. You’ll be glad you did!
Finally, introverts tend to have small groups of people they allow into their own circles of influence, but the people in those circles are those they value and trust. This makes it easy to trust those people when it’s time to delegate. Also, because the inner circle is usually a group of people that the introvert values, it’s only natural that the introverted leader would want to empower those same people to be successful. When they are reaching out to bigger groups, introverts have the ability to show sincerity with their words and convictions, and the group comes away feeling empowered and capable.
Introvert, Extrovert… Just Take the Lead!
The fact that you are reading this article means that you have already asked yourself the question, “Can I be a good leader?” Let me make this simple. The answer is YES! Absolutely! You might not be ready to lead today, but it’s not outside of your grasp. Start today, be honest with yourself and determine which area(s) you need to develop for yourself, and others, then start working on those “muscles.” Others are waiting for you to take the lead!