Being an Introvert Doesn't Make You a Bad Leader
What is the introversion bias?
There’s a saying I heard once that said, ‘the world is run by charismatic people.’
It’s obviously not true, but the idea still resonates with me. Charismatic people have a huge advantage in that they are sociable, confident, more prone to networking and developing friends with large numbers of people, they often speak well and can convince and influence people, and so on.
According to ZestFor.com, they say, the introversion bias is an “unconscious bias manifests itself in various workplace scenarios – where introverts can be discriminated against in favour of extrovert behaviour. Introverts are often made to feel that there is something wrong with them, and it can affect their career success.”
What is introversion and extroversion?
Most people are on an introvert-extrovert spectrum.
- Introversion tends to be characterized as feeling more comfortable and capable in quitter and less-stimulated environments.
- Extroverts on the other hand thrive in socially stimulating environments and get energy from being around others.
Let your work do the talking
It’s easy for introverts to be overlooked in the workplace.
Outgoing, energetic extroverts can outshine their introverted co-workers. They may be considered for promotions, particularly leadership roles, even though introverts are perfectly capable of being successful in those same roles.
The person who speaks more in meetings, is telling great stories in the lunchroom, and walking around the office confidently and socially can be perceived as more intelligent, more capable, and more of a leader.
This perception can also affect one’s self-esteem. By looking at the charismatic leader, introverts may deem themselves as inferior, being unable to imagine themselves in a leadership role. This in turns can sap a person’s confidence and hold them back.
WFH has, in effect, clipped the wings of the social butterfly, allowing everyone to be on the same playing field, and having one’s work and contribution speak for them. In the absence of a room of people, the extrovert has no more perceived advantages. Sometimes a person’s charm, charisma, and social skills can even mask deficiencies in their work quality or output.
With more meetings taking place virtually, shy and quite types can become more involved in those meetings, which they may not have felt comfortable doing in the past.
Public speaking for introverts can be terrifying, especially when presenting an opinion or idea, inviting opposition to swat it down. Instead of being intimidated to speak up, introverts can take a moment to craft thoughtful statements or pitch ideas without fear of being directly challenged. By having more text-based discussions, introverts can hide their nerves, anxiety, and being frazzled since nobody is staring at them, waiting for a quick-witted response. They can take a moment, breathe, and type.
This is not just true for group meetings, but also one-on-one interactions. Without being face-to-face, an introvert may feel more at ease and have less social anxiety. They can set aside that part of their brain that would otherwise be occupied by how they look or how awkward they’re coming across, and instead focus more on the meeting.
Being an introvert doesn't make you a bad leader
Some of the most successful CEOs and founders are introverts. Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Warren Buffet come to mind.
Author and Wharton School of Business professor, Adam Grant, discusses introverted leaders. According to his research, he found introverted leaders to be highly effective because they are more likely to listen to their employee’s ideas without feeling threatened. This allows employees to feel valued and heard, rather than dismissed and devalued.
However, Grant goes on to state that success of an introverted leader depends on the kinds of employees they have, particularly proactive employees who are able to go off on their own and don’t require an energetic rally to get them motivated and excited.
Introverts may even look at extroverts thriving in the workplace and try to mimic them. However, an introvert trying to force themselves to become more extroverted usually doesn’t work. They can develop more social skills, become more comfortable in meetings, but that doesn’t mean they need to become an extrovert to be a good leader.
Fortress of solitude
There is a power in working alone without the distractions of a bustling workplace.
According to Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, some of the most religious leaders throughout history – Moses, Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad – were solo seekers, often going off on their own in the wilderness to to do quite contemplation. Once they obtain some transcendent epiphany or profound revelation, they then bring those ideas back to the community.
Cain goes on to say, “the key for us to maximize our talents is to put ourselves in the zone of stimulation that is right for us.”
Being the new person in the office
Whenever you start at a new company, there’s that moment when you walk through the door for the first time and are met with dozens of eyes — some judging, some welcoming, and others just eager to meet you. For many introverts, this can be an incredibly uncomfortable experience that can persist for weeks, months, or even longer.
As you meet new faces around the office, there may be an expectation that you have to be ‘on’ to be likable. After all, this is a co-worker’s first impression of you and could set the tone for how you are forever perceived. When you’d rather eat alone than in a large group, it can be intimidating for the new person.
If you’ve changed jobs during the Covid 19 pandemic, many of these anxiety inducing situations don’t exist. You can take your time and settle into a new job. You may have to introduce yourself through a company-wide email, or on a Teams meeting, but you will not be required to stand around a water cooler and make small talk.
Introverts have a lot of amazing qualities and advantages as well, and this working remote culture that is being widely accepted is leveling the playing field for introverts.
WFH may be the best thing to happen to introverts in the workplace. Being alone and away from a busy office can give an introvert the energy they need to be hyper-focused and excel. As more and more companies like Google and Microsoft are embracing this new work-from-home culture, this may finally allow introverts their opportunity to shine.
In fact, According to The Wall Street Journal, Netherlands Poised to Make Work-From-Home a Legal Right.