Companies can benefit from adjusting their expectations and allowing individuals, like introverts, to develop their own leadership styles.
Recently, I attended a leadership training where leadership, communication, and listening skills were broadly discussed. Whether a person is an introvert or extrovert, everyone’s leadership style is different. While some leaders may demonstrate similar approaches, how one leads is also a reflection of personality, culture, beliefs, values, educational background, work ethics, and other attributes that influence us both personally and professionally.
Therefore, a one-size-fits-all leadership approach hardly works these days. As someone who works at a university, I find it interesting how students comb through online reviews in search of “the perfect instructor.” Each student is looking for something different, but it’s often easy grading, easy assignments, and flexibility. If a professor can tick off these boxes, they are sure to fill their classes! Those who are tougher and less flexible (i.e., they hold to their deadlines) generally have a more difficult time filling classes.
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What Makes a Good Leader
So, what makes a good leader? That’s what I aimed to discover in the leadership training that I attended. After listening to the presentation, I realized that leadership (like many things in life!) is more than what you see on paper. Clearly, an introverted leader will lead a little bit differently than an extroverted leader.
While some managers may suggest ropes courses, axe-throwing, and other “fun team-building” exercises, introverts are more likely to send a thoughtful, well-written email with a list of ways that we can work together more effectively as a team. No meeting required! No after-work commitments! But, send me as many team-building or motivational emails that you’d like!
The leadership training that I attended provided some valuable information (and reminders) on what it takes to be a good leader. While I found much of the information useful, I thought that some of the information was presented too broadly, specifically regarding personality.
As I mentioned previously, a person’s personality often reflects their leadership style. Therefore, introverts and extroverts will often lead in unique ways. (By the way, did you know several U.S. Presidents were introverts and amazing leaders, from Abraham Lincoln to Franklin D. Roosevelt?) To me, here are some benefits of having an introverted leader.
4 Benefits of Having an Introverted Leader in the Workplace
1. They probably won’t hold lengthy in-person meetings or schedule after-hours activities.
Introverts recognize that some people (like themselves) don’t enjoy meetings — especially if the content could have been covered in an email — and that their time after work is valuable. (I definitely do not want to attend work functions after-hours.) We need that time to recharge and prepare ourselves mentally for work the next day.
I, for one, spend that time either reading or watching television (with the volume low) in order to appreciate the silence I don’t always have at work. This time is essential to me and I look forward to it every day.
Therefore, as an introverted leader, I would not make meetings or after-hours get-togethers mandatory.
2. They give trainees more of a “learn as you go” approach.
During the training presentation I attended, some of the information focused on “how we train” as leaders. I found that much of the content on regimented training programs did not align with my introverted training style, which is mostly informal. I prepare a handbook for our student employees and our atmosphere promotes a “learn as you go” approach. There is no need for me to spend days in one-on-one trainings.
So, as a leader, something to consider is: How much information will a new employee retain during a grueling three-day, eight-hours-per-day training? Probably not much. If they’re anything like me, they’ll just spend more time at home reviewing their notes, stressed that they’re unable to remember everything!
Also, after an intense training session, will a person never have any questions? I’d rather show a person the basics and let them learn as they go. This allows them to learn the company’s culture while also developing their own work style. And I think companies overall can benefit from adjusting their expectations and allowing individuals to develop their own work styles, ones that are best suited for their personality.
Do you ever struggle to know what to say?
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3. They’ll do more listening and less speaking.
One interesting aspect of the leadership presentation was the suggestion that all leaders should attend a public speaking workshop. I am not opposed to public speaking training; it may be beneficial for some introverted leaders who are required to speak publicly.
However, my job requires little-to-no public speaking (deep sigh of relief!). So this was irrelevant for me — and may be irrelevant for other introverts who are not required to speak publicly (or who have found ways to avoid public speaking altogether).
There is nothing wrong with this, of course. If you do not like public speaking (and you don’t have to), then there’s no need to develop skills you may never use.
4. They’ll handle conflicts and issues differently.
About a decade ago, I worked at a place where a dress code issue arose among the staff. To solve the issue, the manager held a meeting with everyone at the office — whether you were in violation or not.
I remember the meeting was confusing, because it was not clear who was in violation and who was not. This was a “group reprimand” in a situation that did not necessitate a group reprimand. And, as a fellow introvert, you probably know that we don’t like conflict.
If I’d been in charge, I would have probably sent an email or told the person discreetly (as I’ve done in the past) that their apparel does not meet office dress code standards. This way, it takes less time (and I’ve successfully avoided another meeting)!
One Leadership Style Is Not Necessarily ‘the Best Way’ for All Leaders
These are just a few examples of how introverts may lead differently in the workplace. The point is, we are all different. Our leadership styles reflect our diversity, which should be considered when we train our leaders. Don’t assume one way is “the best way” for all leaders. We may not tick off all the same boxes on the “most effective leader” survey as extroverts, but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t great leaders within the scope of our abilities and personalities.
Introverted leaders, what tips would you add? I’d love to hear in the comments below!