How to make the most of your introversion

reading artwork introversion

In a conversation with a group of people, I pointed out that I perceived a colleague to be an introvert. The look of indignation on her face said it all, she took my words as an accusation. Girl, if she had pearls on she would have clutched them! My colleague later explained that while she was comfortable being an introvert, she preferred that it wasn’t brought up in a work context. This was simply because of the assumptions that people make about introversion and how it affects leadership. As an introvert myself, this conservation got me thinking.

One of the most crucial elements of being a #MotherlandMogul is knowing and being able to sell your best qualities. When we think of a list of ‘good qualities’ for leadership, introversion isn’t among that list. Let’s be real saying, “I love working in groups, and am outgoing”, doesn’t have the same ring to it as, “I’m an introvert who really excels at solo processing”. So, although I wouldn’t have the same reaction my colleague had, I wouldn’t shout, “I’m a introvert!” either.

When I started this article, the title was originally going to be, “How To Make Your Introversion Work For You”. This sounds sort of like how to make a recession, or any other unpleasant thing work for you. Do you see the problem? Introversion isn’t usually pitched as a strength, rather it’s a condition you need to manage or work through.

Whether you identify as an introvert, ambivert, or extravert (here is a short test to get a sense of where you lie), the key is to own it. I’ve identified 3 areas that introverts commonly complain about and have a few suggestions on how to shift perspective and leverage your strengths in each one.

Speaking up

Many introverts view their preference to listen rather than speak negatively. In fact, this is something that can distinguish them as good leaders. I used to be so caught up with trying to make regular contributions in meetings that I actually fought against what my brain naturally wanted to do; sit back and process. Laurie Helgoe states in her perspective shifting book, that introverts have an “internal power—the power to birth fully formed ideas, insights, and solutions”. Being able to sit back and notice things others may miss, gives you an advantage that is useful to any team.

So, now you know it’s a good quality how do you convince everyone else? Please don’t just say, “I’m a  listener” and bring shame upon the whole SheLeads family. When pitching this quality make sure you frame it as having a personality that allows you to be contemplative andsolution driven. Lisa Petrilli puts it like this:

“[Introverts] thrive in the world of complex ideas. We are exceptional strategic thinkers and listeners and bring great insight to our work. All of these characteristics make us inspirational leaders — and inspiration is at the core of charisma.”

Networking

When it comes to networking, don’t be too quick to dismiss your ability to get it done effectively. The differences between how extroverts and introverts connect is summarised by  the creators of the  popular 16 Personalities test. “Where the extrovert’s strength is to know a little bit about a vast number of people, the introvert’s ability to quietly absorb a great deal of information about the people who they spend time with can prove even more valuable.”

I have always been a firm believer in building a high quality over a large quantity network. This works well for introverts who would prefer not to engage in small talk with large groups. Plan and be strategic with the networking you want to do. Use your introversion super-powers to build strong and deep links that you can use later on.

Branding

Okay my introverted family, this is one area that we are going to have to make more of an effort. Don’t panic, it’s as much as you think! Personal branding is valuable, no one can argue against that. To put it plainly, it is just a way of letting as many people in on your hustle as possible.

Seeing as introverts tend to enjoy solitude anyway, social media and networking sites are a perfect way to use up all that precious alone time. There’s no telling who you could meet, some of my best connections have been made over Twitter. I love what Forbes writer William Aruba said about personal branding, “Personal branding is not about being famous, it’s about being selectively famous.” Keeping this in mind, don’t feel pressured to join every single site imaginable, you can afford to be picky.

Are there any qualities you feel introverts need to leverage more?

About Kudzanai Mutendadzamera

I write leadership advice to help you get out of your own way.
Occasionally, I'll share conversations I have with a few of my #wce's, in which we attempt to demystify the keys to success.

9 thoughts on “How to make the most of your introversion

  1. Introvert checking in! As you’ve mentioned, introversion is not seen as a good thing at all in the workplace. At my previous workplace, there was a lot of face-to-face interaction with customers, so obviously that was very challenging for me. Right now I work at a place where my interaction with customers happens through phone & computer screen and that is perfect for me. I’ve also embraced being seen as the quiet one.

    1. I’m so glad this resonates with you, and bravo for embracing it. Having to put on ‘a show’ everyday can be exhausting so I’m glad you have a team that respects you.

  2. This is definitly true for me. I’m actively working on being more vocal as Iv’e learned the hard way that closed mouths don’t get fed in my industry and being overlooked for promotions just because you are the quiet one isn’t working for me anymore. People assume you aren’t doing your job just because you aren’t making noise about stress or accomplishments, so stricking a balance between that and being a loud mouth is a skill i’m trying to learn. Awesome article! May we all break free from our shells a little more day by day.

    1. Thanks Tiisetso, I’m so glad there are so many introverts learning there is nothing ‘wrong’ with them, and are finding ways to succeed authentically. I loved the last line of your comment so much I had to tweet it!

  3. If there’s one trait introverts need to leverage on, it’s the ability to innovate. Most great inventions were created by introverts. Being alone gives you time to learn, discover and experiment.

  4. Thank you Kudzi, I learnt quite a lot about my inner abilities and strengths being an introvert. I really love this: “…the introvert’s ability to quietly absorb a great deal of information about the people who they spend time with can prove even more valuable.” I have always been a firm believer in building a high quality over a large quantity network.” Thank you for that I’d learn to leverage more on it.

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