Why introverts make great leaders

Need someone in your organization who can make bold decisions, inspire others, and communicate effectively? Hire a quiet, reserved person.

Yes, there is a growing tide of research that introverted people can make really great leaders.

This idea, explored in Forbes magazine back in 2009, covered more recently on Time.com and the subject of several business books and blogs, including JenniferKahnweiler.com, suggests that introverted people may just have the right stuff to lead organizations in our go-go, extroverted business culture.

Not convinced? Here are a few considerations.

1.  Introverts are the kind of leaders who are not afraid to get out of the way and let employees or volunteers shine. Think how often small and growing nonprofits are derailed by the issues of founder ego (and what we could collectively accomplish without this costly distraction).

2.  Introverts can be very effective coaching a team of energetic, creative people. Introverts are actually better at drawing out the energy of a very proactive team. Don’t forget that the best teams are comprised of a diverse mix of personality styles, even though we’re naturally tempted to recruit people who are similar and therefore “fit” together.

3.  Because they are likely more self-aware, introverts may be more comfortable “playing to their strengths” because they are able to candidly assess what their gifts and weaknesses are.

4.  Introverts like to think first and talk later. They are good listeners. They tend to be more measured with their words. They can use their calm, quiet demeanor to be heard amid all the organizational noise and chatter.

5.  Introverts like to focus on depth, not necessarily breath, of an issue. They are excellent with questioning and like to dig deep, more drawn to meaningful conversation than superficial chitchat.

6.  These leaders can exhibit a kind of quiet courage, exuding calm and reassuring confidence in times of crisis. Whether they are preparing for a meeting, an interview, a speech, or a special event, introverts are naturally prone to lots of preparation. “Winging it” is not their style.

7.  Introverts like to let their fingers do the talking, i.e., they likely prefer writing to talking. Thus they may be better at articulating their position and documenting progress.

8.  Introverts understand how to embrace solitude, taking time to recharge their batteries after suffering from “people exhaustion.” People who know how and when to take regular time-outs are likely to be more creative, but also ready to absorb what comes next, more prepared to be responsive—not merely reactive.

9.  The most effective leaders may in fact be “ambiverts,” those whose personalities are not at either extreme end of the spectrum. “These are people who know when to speak up and when to shut up, when to inspect and when to respond, when to push and when to hold back,” wrote Daniel Pink in a Washington Post column back in January.

10.  Thus you might want to re-think your assumption that extroverts are invariably the best choice as a development director. “We’d be far better off with those who take a more calibrated approach—who can talk smoothly but also listen keenly, who know when to turn on the charm but also when to turn it off, who combine the extrovert’s assertiveness with the introvert’s quiet confidence,” writes Pink in his book, To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others.