The most common misconception I hear is that introverts aren’t leaders. Are you an introvert? If so, then it’s likely you’ve been plagued by such misconceptions for most of your career. The truth, however, is that some of the biggest and brightest CEOs of our time are or were introverts. Take Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, for instance.
With about 40% of the population identifying as introverts, it’s time to address the misconception that introverts don’t make great leaders. To do that, though, we need to break down exactly what is associated with introvert personalities.
Misconceptions about being an introvert
Individuals who are extroverts tend to think that introverts are shy, they dislike people, they prefer be alone, and they should change who they are to become more extroverted. But psychological studies prove that this couldn’t be further from the truth. According to recent studies, there are four types of introverts: social, thinking, anxious, and inhibited.
This framework, especially when put in a leadership light, dispels the myths that all introverts:
- Are shy. Shyness does not preclude being an extrovert, and “shyness” is often confused with a quiet demeanor. In business, a thinking or reserved introvert is more likely to deeply ponder and mull over decisions and paths of action before they speak on them.
- Hate people. Social introverts (and all introverts) actually love people. They very much value the relationships and connections they have. They do, however, tend to have only a handful to which they are intensely loyal. In business, this correlates to a manager’s ability to choose employees and partnerships wisely.
- Worry a lot. These are the anxious introverts, who may worry about how they come off in social situations, or who ruminate on outcomes. In business and leadership, however, these are the most empathetic and planning-oriented people on the team.
- Like being alone. While most introverts feel the need to “recharge their batteries,” they are perfectly okay in public settings. They may, however, prefer more intimate settings, as they are worn out more easily by large groups. In business, managers are wise to allow introverts to work alone, as this is how they work best.
When we begin to break down the barriers and actually focus on the myths surrounding introverts, it’s easy to see exactly how people with these traits actually make great leaders. It also makes it easier to focus on how you can harness these traits within an organization to improve leadership quality overall.
Incorporating introverts into the culture
If you’re an introvert and you align with any of the list above, you may feel like the general business culture is built for extroverts who are “better” at socializing than you are. Hopefully, however, you’re beginning to see your traits as a personal advantage, rather than a liability.
For the wider leadership arena, it’s also important to be aware of the introverts around you – whether you’re a CEO or not. You should understand the potential value they add to the company, rather than make the mistake of discounting them because they seem “quiet.”
To really harness the power that introverts provide, it’s important to create group or team structures that evenly represent introverts and extroverts. Also provide your team with adequate time for deep thought so they can hash through their thoughts on their own, before a group presentation is necessary. By leaning into their strengths, rather than rueing their weaknesses, you’ll get better results and stronger leaders.