Being an Introvert Doesn't Make You a Bad Leader. In Fact, It Just Might Be Your Secret Weapon.
We've peddled this idea that a leader has to be an extroverted, outgoing "people person." But that couldn't be more wrong.
Hollywood has been having a field day bringing us the incredible stories of startups turned juggernauts with shows on Uber, WeWork and Theranos entertaining us from afar. Oftentimes, these rise and demise stories are centered around larger-than-life egotistical leaders who are depicted as overly ambitious, very vocal and fueled by achieving company growth — whatever the cost.
We have peddled this idea that leaders need to be extroverted, outgoing "people persons." We see this image over and over again of these exuberant, out-there leadership figures, and it leaves you feeling like it's simply not a role fit for introverts. But that couldn't be more wrong.
After watching my fair share of documentaries, mini-series and Netflix movies on the type of awe-inspiring or "we are going to change the world" leader trope who asks teams to "move fast and break things," I am reaffirmed in my personal approach when it comes to running a business and being a team leader, co-CEO and co-founder by channeling quiet confidence.
Quiet confidence means that you believe in yourself and you're steady in that regard. "They never impose their opinions on others, rather softly guide one to the right path," one definition reads. "Even though quiet confident people aren't loudly commanding, they make great leaders as they can easily get people in their confidence by establishing trust through careful listening."
Now you may be asking yourself, how do I, as an introvert, channel quiet confidence myself? How do I become the best leader I can be when I'm lacking what appears to be the most common leadership trait: extroversion? Here are some of my tips for introverted leaders to keep in mind when fine-tuning their quiet confidence approach.
Figure out what works for you
Quiet confidence isn't a one size fits all model. Every leader will find their own unique take on the approach. It's simply a matter of figuring out what works for you and your team. For myself, as a female leader who is somewhat introverted and speaks English as her second language (my native language is Finnish), I am very deliberate and thoughtful about what I am saying rather than using my voice to fill the room or command attention.
An American proverb I've come to learn is, "the squeaky wheel gets the grease." This is used to convey the idea that the most noticeable people or problems are the ones most likely to get attention. I, personally, don't believe in talking just to talk. I want to consider every word that comes out of my mouth and the impact it will have on myself and my team. While having an exuberant "every idea I have is revolutionary and people need to hear it" approach may get heads turning, if there's one thing Hollywood (and real-life) has taught us is that this doesn't always end well. Being a walking talking sales pitch might get some eyeballs looking in your direction, but it does nothing for your long-term effectiveness as a leader and as a company owner.
Build off your strengths
While loudly commanding a room of people might not be where you're most comfortable, you can channel your other strengths in a way that helps you become a better leader. Maybe you are exceptionally empathetic or a good listener. Bring these traits into your unique leadership style as a way to enhance and strengthen your quieter approach.
The real key to being a good leader is finding a way to effectively and efficiently support and guide your employees in a way that aligns with your company goals and vision. So start there: What do you want to achieve through your work as a leader — what is your goal? Now work backward: What steps can I take to achieve this? Identify the skills or strengths that would help you take these steps. If you're lacking in one vital skill, what ones do you possess that can help make up for it? Or even keep this gap in mind as you grow your team — make up for what you're naturally lacking by hiring someone who balances you out.
The most important thing is being in tune with what you can and can't do because once you understand yourself and all your strengths and weaknesses, you'll finally understand how to be the best version of yourself.
Always consider your team
As a people leader, it is imperative to make space for those who are not typically the ones voicing up and raising their hands. Your display of quiet confidence is helping to cultivate a workplace and culture where it's okay to be yourself and work within your personal comfort levels.
Additionally, introverts oftentimes make up for their lack of talking with their listening. When you're always the loudest voice in the room, it hardly ever gives others the feeling that they can be vocal and understood. Listen to your employees, investors, customers — everyone. Be open and receptive.
I'm proud of myself and my approach knowing that, by offering and depicting an appropriate level of confidence, understanding, compassion and open-mindedness, I am fostering an inclusive environment for others who may be more reserved or not as vocal.
Entrepreneurs, CEOs and founders should never be ashamed of being different than what's expected of them. Just because we don't often see more than one type of leadership style doesn't mean that we can't get the job done, or that we aren't just as good, if not better, leaders than the ones typically depicted. For any leaders or employees at organizations of all kinds, I hope that quiet confidence speaks to you and your team the same way that it's spoken to me.
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