Introverted? 3 Leadership Lessons From Famous Introverts


What do Barack Obama, Mahatma Gandhi, Warren Buffet, Marissa Meyer and Mark Zuckerberg have in common?

Not only are they respected and highly popular leaders in their own right; they are also introverted.

Introverted leaders are not painfully shy wallflowers. They may not be boisterous, charming or standout from the crowd. But, in a leadership position, introverts are often the voice of reason—they are risk averse and are able to provide action plans that are based on comprehensive data.

As a leader, here is what you can learn from some world-renowned leaders who have made such a great impact in the world:

Be unfazed about your passions

Bill Gates is a great example of a bookish introvert who does not shy away from vehemently supporting his ideas and vision.

On a regular day, he would comfortably spend all his time with a computer but at a board meeting or in a TV interview he is tenacious about what he believes in.

Great leaders not only have a passion for their vision but they also know how to defend and inspire people to support this vision.

While you do not have to force yourself to shout or gregariously support your ideas, you can still calmly express yourself using facts, evidence and data to support your point of view.

It is OK to choose your words cautiously

The archetypical leader is seen as a fast-talking, witty and dramatic individual who has a way with words. Quite the opposite of introverts.

OBAMA_THDVR_1271814fPresident Barack Obama is perhaps famous for his deeply inspirational, rhythmic, convincing speeches. In spite of his undeniable charisma, he is actually a very solitary figure who likes to spend more time thinking things through before speaking.

Extroverts might be able to think on their toes and may have everything on their fingertips. But their fast-talking nature could be disadvantageous—it is easy for them to say the wrong things or at least say things that they cannot support.

On the contrary, introverts are cautious about what they say. They know how to choose the right words for the right occasion and for the right audience, making them excellent diplomats.

In addition to choosing their words, introverted leaders take time to make decisions, and that is OK. They process information much slower than extroverts do. But this is not necessarily a bad thing—it allows for a keen assessment of situations before rushing in and making bitter mistakes.

Good listening and empathy are indispensable

Research has shown that introverts are much better listeners than extroverts are. This is hardly surprising—given that they do not talk as much, introverts have the ability to stay quiet and listen for long periods.

It is through listening that such leaders are able to develop well-thought action plans or offer relevant advice.

Although they often do not work too well in groups, introverted leaders have the ability to nurture great group performance simply because they take the time to understand the specific needs of a particular team.

Mark Zuckerberg is an excellent example of a classic introvert but one who deeply cares about the people who work at his social media company, according to the more outgoing Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg. For Zuckerberg, his ability to make genuine connections enables him to inspire his employees to support his vision.

Mark-Zuckerberg-10Listening and empathy go hand in hand. According to Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ, empathy is one of the greatest assets of an excellent leader.

Empathy is less about being entrapped in other people’s emotions. Rather it is more about recognizing their emotions and making intellectual decisions.

Arianna Huffington who identifies as an introvert is a well-known advocate of unplugging in a busy world and encourages her employees to unplug often. At the Huffington offices, she proudly allows employees to take short naps!

Given, you do not have to compel your employees to sleep their way to the top. But, this is a good example of a leader who is empathetic enough to consider her employee’s wellbeing and to create structures that support this.

Introverted Leaders

Extroverts rule the world, so to speak. But, there is no denying that introverts too can create waves in the world of leadership, albeit in their own quiet, solitary and calm way. One only needs to look at the current crop of world leaders to take a pinch of inspiration.

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