According to a poll conducted by Harvard Business Review, 65 percent of American executives believe that introversion creates a barrier to great business leadership. However, introverts have potential to become excellent leaders. In fact, some of the most respected business leaders in history, such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, identify as introverts. Sometimes, introverts require a bit more executive coaching to realize and harness their potential as leaders, but that does not mean introversion does not offer any advantages in the business context. Recent books like The Introverted Leader by Jennifer Kahnweiler and Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain offer some unique insight on the power of introverts in leadership positions. Some of the key advantages that introverts have as business leaders include:
More meaningful connections
Many people feel that introverts struggle to build connections with the people around them, but this perception builds from the fact that their priorities differ from those of extroverts. Introverts generally do not like speaking in front of large groups and may have difficulty delivering a rousing speech, but they generally excel at forming and maintaining close relationships with the people around them. In relating to people on the individual level, introverts have the ability to communicate empathy, which builds trust and results in true understanding. For that reason, introverts tend to be more in tune with each member of their team than extroverts are, which helps them inspire and motivate team members more effectively at the individual level.
Thorough problem-solving abilities
Excellent leadership depends on strong problem-solving skills. Research shows that introverts tend to have thicker grey matter in the prefrontal cortex, the region of the brain involved in abstract thinking and decision making. Perhaps because of this biological predisposition, introverts tend to put more thought and reflection into a decision before acting and may actually come up with more creative solutions. In addition, research shows that introverts tend not to make hasty decisions. Furthermore, because introverted business leaders tend to be more in tune with their team members, they are more likely to sense people’s hesitations or objections and work to resolve them before moving forward. This can result in stronger agreements with greater team buy-in.
Calming influence on team members
Business leaders who overreact can quickly lose the trust of their team members. While extroverts can sometimes lash out when they feel panicked, introverts are much more likely to react calmly to a crisis and think carefully about the best steps before making a move. Generally speaking, introverts are less likely to display strong emotions outside their closest circle of family and friends. This reserve may cause some people to feel that introverts are aloof or cold, but in the professional context, an even temperament can help foster a more peaceful atmosphere in the office.
More space to share thoughts
Since extroverts tend to dominate a team, employees can begin to feel stifled, even if they do not notice it. Because extroverts can quickly take over a discussion, employees may feel like they don’t have the chance to share their ideas, or they may feel discouraged from doing so if they disagree with the leader. Even when people do share their thoughts, extroverted leaders may not give them their full attention, which means that the idea falls on deaf ears. When this happens, others are discouraged from speaking up, and when sharing doesn’t occur, innovation becomes stifled. Since they speak less and tend to think carefully beforehand, introverts often leave the floor open for others to present their opinions and ideas. Moreover, introverts are more likely to listen to an idea and give it full consideration.
Stronger sense of focus
Compared to extroverts, introverts are generally able to tune out distractions and focus fully on the task at hand. Introverts pull energy from within, rather than drawing it from their surroundings, so they can work without needing to take part in the conversations around them or wondering what is causing various noises around the office. As a result, introverts can often be more productive and deliver end products that are more complete. The ability to juggle several tasks at once does give extroverts some competitive advantage in the office, but it can also limit their ability to complete tasks in a timely and focused manner, one of the primary strengths of the introvert.
A humbler approach to work
With their greater predisposition to self-reflection, introverts tend to have a more accurate understanding of their own strengths and areas where they could improve. This can make introverts more humble than extroverts. It’s important to keep in mind that humility is not a weakness; rather, the humble outlook of the introvert can build trust and respect in a professional setting. With humility, introverts acknowledge their mistakes and imperfections, which in turn creates a more open and accepting environment for employees. In addition, humility makes people more willing to hear another person’s perspectives and ideas concerning a situation. In the end, introverts tend to focus on developing the best solution possible because they don’t automatically assume their idea is the best.