Why Introverts Make Great Leaders

Why Introverts Make Great Leaders

Have you ever been told - “you’re just not cut out for leadership?”  Or have you questioned your ability to lead because you don’t exhibit the key traits of an extrovert? 

In college, my professor told the entire class he was certain I’d fail when I assumed a leadership position on campus - then later said I did better than he anticipated.  

He wasn’t a respectable teacher and eventually lost his job, yet this was an embarrassing moment for me.  It caused me to question if I was good enough to carry out leadership tasks.

As introverts, we like to have time to think, research and know where we stand before spouting whatever comes to mind.  However, this doesn’t mean we aren’t leaders or we aren’t cut out for the role.

Honestly, if we didn’t give our ideas more thought, then we wouldn’t be introverted people.  

Our deep thinking and reflection is among our greatest traits.  We have a level of perception that’s unique to us and allows us to bring a valued skill-set to leadership roles.

Whether or not you want to be a CEO, this post shares how introverts can be great leaders in their work and lives, by examining what it takes to be a great CEO.

Evidence Shows Introverts Are High Performing Leaders

As I dug deeper into leadership and how it impacts introverted people, I didn’t anticipate that some of the best leaders in the corporate space, were introverted people.  I expected to see more evidence to support the perceived performance of extroverts.  

The data does show that extroverts earn leadership roles more often than introverts based on perceived capability – which reminds me of that college professor I loved so much.

An article written by Harvard Business Review titled – What Sets Successful CEOs Apart, noted that boards gravitate toward and select extroverted leaders.  However, it was the introverts who were more likely to surpass the expectations of the board.

Also, the CEO candidates who projected confidence during the interview would more than double their chance of being chosen as CEO.  Yet once results were measured, there was no evidence that the seemingly confident candidates were more successful. It was merely a projection of confidence over true capability.

A study by Stanford and the University of Chicago that analyzed over 4,500 CEOs, suggests that companies run by introverted CEOs outperformed their peers and publicly traded companies run by extroverts received a 2% lower return on assets.  

Two percent isn’t a game changer, but it does show introverts are at minimum, just as capable as extroverts when it comes to high-performing leadership roles.

Four Behaviors Support Great Leadership

In the Harvard study, there were four behaviors that would greatly increase the chance of becoming high-performing leaders.

Not every leader is great at all four behaviors – in fact most were not.  Yet the successful leaders exhibited strength in more than one of the key areas. 

The critical piece is insuring that the four areas are regularly practiced over time which can be a challenge to existing leaders.  Sharpening your personal tool kit in these areas will help prime you for leadership – introverted or not.

The Four Key Areas & Why Introverts Are Great At Them:

1. Deciding with Speed & Conviction

What Does This Mean?

·  Great CEOs don’t stand out for making great decisions all the time, they stand out for their decisiveness

·  Leaders with the courage to decide with great conviction were more likely to be high performing

Why Introverts Are Great:

·  Introverts aren’t always the fasted thinkers, but they are well researched

·  Introverts will study the right detail within their business so when it comes time to make quick decisions, they have the facts

2. Engaging for Impact

What Does This Mean?

·  The CEO’s ability to establish the path and get cross-functional buy-in sets great CEOs apart, making them 75% more successful in their role according to Harvard

Why Introverts Are Great:

·  They are known to listen more and process the needs and concerns of the broader team 

·  They can read the emotions of others around them and learn how to make others feel empowered and heard

·  Empowering others is what’s considered charisma – and guess what, we might not be the most chatty one in the room but we’ve got this trait too 

·  According to Forbes, introverts hire good people and leave them alone which gives them space to think independently

·  Introverts aren’t threatened by collaboration & allow others to be creative on the job which motivates them

·  They tend to give their employees more flexibility because they know their own limits and the importance of recharging

3. Adapting Proactively 

What Is It?

·  Knowing how to deal with situations that aren’t written in a playbook somewhere

·  Adaptable CEOs spend 50% of their time thinking of the long-term & easily pick up on early signals of change

Why Introverts Are Great:

·  Many introverts are strategic thinkers and place value on evaluating the long-term effects of planning

·  Introverts approach workplace situations with a sense of practicality

·  Like researching?  Predicting change often means you are up to speed on the latest economic trends and don’t mind reading regularly to stay informed

4. Delivering Reliably

What Is This?

·  This means the ability to deliver consistent results over time

·  This isn’t about the highest revenue number one year, this is about consistent growth every year

·  Those who scored high on reliability were twice as likely to be selected for the role and 15 times more likely to succeed in it

Why Introverts Are Great:

·  Introverts love to study and learn - it’s the introverts who will study the best habits of other great leaders and implement them

·  They are focused on results for the company more so than activity that will pump their egos

Where do you excel in these four key areas already? 

Have awareness of where you are strong and think about how you can apply those skills more regularly in your daily work.

If you have any of these four skills - you’re already an asset to your company with the necessary skills to be an introverted leader, no matter what role you are actively serving today.


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