The quiet power of the introvert leader

February 04, 2023
The quiet power of the introvert leader

Dr. Amal Almoualed

Introverts have personality traits that are inwardly focused, concentrating deeply on their internal thoughts, feelings and moods rather than seeking external stimulation. These types of people may hear the following statements, when nominated for promotion to leadership positions: He/she is not very talkative, more of a listener.

— He/she is somewhat emotional and considerate of others’ thoughts, this may risk organizational culture, impede our company’s advancement and compromise quality.

— He/she is always smiling and has a kind disposition most of the time, which may encourage bolder personalities to cross boundaries, ignoring him/her.

These statements point to firms’ main criteria for giving leadership promotions, and are deeply rooted in the mindset and educational and societal backgrounds of senior management.

Frequently, however, these statements are rooted in misconceptions that limit introvert individuals’ development and capabilities, frequently confining them to limited roles, even when they would excel if given the opportunity to lead.

Indeed, Bill Gates, Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein were all introvert leaders, and yet each is associated with unique and remarkable achievements.

Moreover, research conducted by the organizational psychologist Adam Grant revealed introverts and extroverts are equivalent in terms of their successes as leaders.

He suggested that introverts are often superior leaders, with proactive employees willing to share their numerous ideas and take the initiative.

By contrast, he reports, extrovert leaders are better at mentoring employees seeking advice and direction, but become threatened by proactive employees’ ideas and desire to take the initiative, which can cause them to reject useful ideas.

Below we highlight five introvert leadership traits that are associated with growth and prosperity and can benefit organizational culture and the teams they lead:

Introverts are effective listeners: due to their caring nature and attention to detail they listen deeply to respond effectively and find common ground, satisfying all parties.

Introvert leaders welcome solitude and seek quality relationships: the happiest and most satisfactory moments for an introvert leader are time spent alone. On a daily basis they need several hours to recharge their energy and creativity, as being in crowded places for a long time drains their energy and souls. They seek out quality relationships over quantity, as their temperaments mean they are “Queens or Kings of solitude”.

Introvert leaders are sympathetic: they are highly considerate of other’s feelings, thoughts and circumstances. They believe that in order for teams to produce high quality work they must have a healthy and human-centered leader able to exhibit both kindness and sincerity.

Introvert leaders are motivational: their calm nature and tendency to pay attention to detail often means they motivate and uplift their teams and employees. This promotes success among creative teams who are willing to say: “We Made it together”. They achieve these results because they ensure “teams work with them to succeed together not individually”.

Introvert leaders are deep thinkers: they reflect deeply on how to resolve professional chaos and battles and bias between teams, to develop a healthy organizational culture with relaxed teams able to work productively to deliver high-quality outcomes.

However, there are also weaknesses that pose challenges for introvert leaders. They can be too sensitive and find it awkward to communicate their ideas to aggressive people, whom they tend to avoid to protect their own mental health and well-being. Thus, they need to adopt the firmness of extrovert leaders when communicating with and confronting difficult and challenging employees.

Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Cannot Stop Talking explained: “Our culture is biased against quiet and reserved people, but introverts are responsible for some of humanity’s greatest achievements.”

She also observed, “The trick of introverts is to honor their styles instead of allowing themselves to be swept up by prevailing norms.” She follows “We do not need giant personalities to transform companies. We need leaders who build not their own egos but the institutions they run.”

The above quotations raise the questions: should the spectrum of leadership encompass introvert and extrovert leaders equally? Do introvert leaders receive recognition for their quiet achievements and receive appropriate professional promotions from those in power?

— The writer is Journalism Assistant Professor in The Media Department at Umm Al-Qura University. She got her Doctoral Degree in Journalism and Communication from Bournemouth University, UK. She can be reached on her Twitter account @AmalAlmowalad

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