When imagining a successful leader, many people automatically envisage someone with a bold personality, charisma, and a knack for public speaking and commanding social situations. This bias has also existed in businesses for many years, with organisations typically looking to promote extroverts to leadership positions rather than staff who are prone to introversion.
A 2006 USA Today study revealed that 65 per cent of senior executives believed introversion to be a barrier to effective leadership. In fact, only 6 per cent said introverts make the best leaders.
However, the list of frequently cited introverts who have made successful leaders is long, including modern names such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, as well as historic faces like Gandhi and Abraham Lincoln.
Therefore, what traits make introverts powerful and motivational leaders? Particularly when they face the stereotype of being quiet, shy and reserved. To answer that question, here are six reasons why introverts could be the right choice for leadership positions at your organisation.
1. New perspective
If your business only promotes extroverts to leadership roles, it can be difficult to gain a different perspective on problems or issues. Introverts can bring new ideas and suggestions to the table that offer fresh direction.
A mixture of introverts and extroverts can optimise brainstorming sessions and other meetings by combining two sets of talents in a way that is mutually beneficial for the creative process.
2. Careful preparation
Introverts like to be prepared, especially for social situations where they may otherwise feel uncomfortable, such as presentations, business meetings, networking events or speeches.
Any additional time spent researching, practising and understanding goals and strategies often pays dividends. Extroverts, while often naturally charming, can be guilty of ‘winging it’. This could cost them opportunities if colleagues or potential customers feel they have more style than substance.
3. Calming influence
Bringing together a room full of extroverts can mean emotions occasionally spill over, which could result in heated arguments and process delays.
Introverts, on the other hand, are usually more reflective and less likely to be directly confrontational. This can help to calm passions and temper egos when meetings spiral out of control.
4. Better at leading proactive teams
Research published in the Harvard Business Review shows that introverts are often better leaders for naturally proactive employees.
This is because they tend to be more receptive to a team’s ideas, which motivates and galvanises staff who are already passionate about their job. However, in the same study, extroverts were found to be more effective at leading passive teams that needed more direction.
5. Keen sense of self
Introverts tend to be better at self-evaluation, meaning they are adept at identifying the positives and negatives in their performances and making adjustments to improve.
An extrovert’s extreme self-confidence could lead them to ignore or not notice flaws in their skills and abilities, or worse, lay the blame elsewhere.
6. One-on-one skills
Whereas extroverts are comfortable flitting between social contacts and talking to a number of different people, individually or in groups, introverts often prefer building strong one-on-one connections.
The advantage is that interpersonal relationships are deeper and often longer lasting. Suppliers, customers and colleagues also feel more appreciated and respected when you take the time to build these ties.