Can Introverts Be Great Leaders?

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When asked to mention famous leaders most people think of common stereotypes – brash, confident, outgoing individuals like Winston Churchill or Bill Clinton. But when asked to name a competent and successful CEO, many people say Bill Gates, Warren Buffet or Mark Zuckerberg. It’s a bit oxymoronic. We expect our leaders to be larger than life extroverts but when you take it down to the studs, many successful CEOs are in fact, humble and hardworking introverts. A USA Today poll cites that 65 percent of executives believe that introversion is an obstacle to leadership, yet 40 percent of leaders are actually introverted. Those introverts that are successful have become adept at adapting to situational demands. So, in an era of “louder and crazier gets the most attention”, how is it that famous introverts like Bill, Warren and Mark are some of the most influential leaders of our time?

They Are Great Listeners – Most extroverts enjoy hearing themselves speak. Introverts, on the other hand, are just better listeners. They don’t crave the limelight or need to be the center of attention and thus are able to wait patiently while others express their ideas before they jump in with their opinion.

They Are Always Prepared – Introverts don’t fly by the seat of their pants. According to Jennifer Kahnweiler, author of The Introverted Leader: Building On Your Quiet Strength and Quiet Influence, “They spend time thinking through their goals and preparing for questions, which gives them an edge.”

They Focus On Depth – Introverted CEOs like to dive into issues and dig deep. They prefer to ask questions that elicit thoughtful response – they feed off of meaningful conversations as opposed to idle chit chat. In a recent Forbes article, Deborah Dunsire, M.D., president and chief executive of Millennium said “I schedule walk around time, just stopping by offices…I would say, ‘Hey, what is keeping you up at night? …What are you working on? Where do you see we can improve?’” Dr.Dunsire believes that by asking these questions, CEOs can learn what is going on in all levels of their organization.

They Are Calm, Cool and Collected – Because introverted CEOs are low-key they provide believable reassurance during turbulent times. Think of that famous introvert President Obama – no matter how heated a press conference might get, he always speaks softly and keeps his cool.

They Are Focused On Improvement – Introverts don’t typically settle. While they might understand that perfection stands in the way of progress, they always endeavour to improve their organizations and themselves, and this can be anything from the smallest to the largest tweaks, from implementing good spreadsheet practice to focussing the direction of the business. This kind of focused leadership motivates teams to do the same – evaluate themselves and their teams and take the necessary steps to improve.

Do you consider yourself an introverted or extroverted leader? Either way, leadership comes with both daunting challenges and amazing rewards. We’ve been where you are. We’ve run businesses large and small, ranging from generational legacies to start-ups. And we believe that what you want is really very simple. You don’t want theory, you don’t want complexity. You want validated tools and systems that help your business run more profitably, delivered by trusted and experienced partners who want only to help you achieve your vision of success, whatever that vision might look like.

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