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.
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.”
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.
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?