Extroverts are often overrepresented in the ranks of workplace leadership. If you don't fall into this naturally gregarious and outgoing personality type, it doesn't mean you can't be a great leader. Quite on the contrary, as an introverted professional, you can use your natural abilities to become a respected and compelling executive.
Make the Most of Your Listening Skills
In group settings, introverts tend to be quieter, preferring to observe the conversation rather than dominate it. While this tendency might seem to go against the image of a dynamic, outgoing leader, it can actually work to your benefit. As an introverted professional, you have a great ability to listen, observe and analyze — and this can be a powerful team-building asset.
In meetings and casual discussions, don't force yourself to be the loudest voice in the room; instead, allow your most outgoing employees the chance to express their ideas. Act as a conversational guide: make periodic interjections to add your thoughts, redirect the discussion, or synthesize different ideas to facilitate progress toward a goal. Observe the group dynamics, and make a point to give other introverts the opportunity to speak. This quiet leadership strategy has multiple benefits for an introverted professional. It allows you to expend energy where it's most effective, creates a balanced and inclusive atmosphere, and ensures that employees pay attention when you speak.
As an introverted professional, you may spend a great deal of time thinking and planning before you act. If you want to transition into a leadership role and become a great leader, it's important to let others in on your thought process on occasion — otherwise, your staff may be confused about your reasoning, or they may feel like you're leaving them in the dark. Since your idea of adequate feedback might not match the needs of your more extroverted team members, make a point to over-communicate. If you've been quiet in leadership team meetings, make a point to speak up more. Email your team about important developments, and explain your motivation for big changes or new initiatives. Although it might not feel comfortable, put yourself out there by sharing ideas and plans, even in the early stages of development. Keeping your staff in the loop does two important things: it makes them feel respected and valued, and it gives them an opportunity to add valuable insight.
Build Relationships Your Own Way
Relationship building is crucial for all leaders, but for an introverted professional, the process might look a little different. When forging connections with co-workers, work to your strengths by employing one-on-one conversations. Invite a new team member to have coffee, or make a point to get weekly face time with each employee. If the idea of having long discussions at a crowded trade show fills you with dread, invite new contacts to talk business in the hotel bar at the end of the day.
When you're an introverted professional, your approach to leadership may be different than that of your extroverted counterparts. However, with conscious effort and awareness, you can get the most from a team while staying true to who you are.
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