Too often, we associate a charismatic leader with competency. Yet not all great leaders are extroverted or charismatic. Some prefer to lead quietly and have learned how to do so while staying true to their nature, perhaps adapting a bit but not to the point where they are trying to be something they are not.
Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking writes, “When it comes to leadership, introverts are routinely passed over for leadership positions, even though introverts tend to be very careful, much less likely to take outsized risks … Introverted leaders often develop better outcomes than extroverted leaders.”
Here are 10 lessons that will help you embody leadership presence while staying true to your introverted nature:
1. Accept that introversion can be a positive trait. Introversion, just like extroversion, has its advantages and disadvantages. Limiting yourself to a belief that one is positive and the other is negative is not useful, nor does it allow you to tap what natural strengths come with your nature.
2. Define “introverted.” To be an introvert is not the same as being timid or shy. This misconception often creates barriers for those who are labeled introverts. Essentially, introversion has more to do with how you process information and where you derive your energy. Introverts tend to process more diligently, sometimes taking more time. They renew themselves in quiet reflection and with few people, and they are often exhausted by crowds and overstimulation.
3. Enhance your best introverted qualities. Embrace and work with, not against, your nature. Identify where and how you are energized to build more resiliency. Manage circumstances that deplete you. Structure the flow of information in ways that leverage your thoughtfulness and diligence for more clarity and better decisions.
4. Work with an extrovert who can complement your strengths. Once you identify strengths you can tap as needed, you will also become aware of where you choose to stretch into your discomfort to enhance your leadership and where you may want to rely on someone else’s extroverted strength to accomplish things, influence others and execute strategies.
To be an introvert is not the same as being timid or shy. Introversion has more to do with how you process information and where you derive your energy.
5. Set boundaries. The best leaders know where those boundaries are and stay within them. If you find yourself exhausted, your ability to lead will be compromised. If you know you need time in your day or week to renew yourself, build it into your schedule. Intentionally create a structure that allows you to lead best within your nature and in alignment with what works to support you.
6. Focus your time and energy. Your energy will follow your attention, so be conscious of where you want to focus. Develop criteria that allow you to choose for or against your attention. Distinguish between what really matters and what is noise.
7. Create space. Tapping into your power as presence, not as volume, expands time and space. This creates physical space, and in leadership, it creates psychic space. Learn to use this spaciousness to listen and blend with situations before attempting to influence outcomes or guide others. Your introverted nature will assist in moving forward with what is purposeful and valued.
8. Focus your attention into any body sensation. When feeling off center, focus your attention quietly on the body sensations to bring you back to the present moment. This can be done at any moment and can be done discreetly.
9. Create teams holistically. Research shows that about half of us are introverts and half of us are extroverts. When creating teams that are diverse in nature, be attentive to include extroverts and introverts so that the results have a positive and harmonious effect on the whole system. The team perspective will be broader, and each style can be tapped to resolve challenges, influence outcomes or work collaboratively on projects.
10. Be conscious of your body language. Presence is both a body state and a mind state. How you stand will make you feel more or less confident. Standing tall, like your mother may have told you, leads to feelings of well-being and confidence. Slouching or looking down elicits feelings of disempowerment. Additionally, your followers need to see and feel your state of being in order to follow your leadership, and they need to feel safe and motivated to do so.
Being an introvert should not compromise your ability to lead. Go with the flow of your nature, and embody leadership presence without feeling the need to be loud or inauthentic. People will sense your confidence and, in turn, will be confident in following your lead. CEO
Alicia M. Rodriguez is founder of Sophia Associates Inc., an international executive and leadership coaching practice. www.sophia-associates.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or @aliciarod on Twitter.