There are many factors to success but contrary to popular belief, ‘being an extrovert’ is NOT one of them. Surprised? Digest this – Four in 10 top executives in the highest corporate offices of the world test out to be introverts. From Bill Gates to Steven Spielberg, Marissa Mayer, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett, and others, introvert yet hugely successful CEOs and leaders are all around us. Still, the world has a picture-perfect mold for a good leader – charismatic, extrovert, with a great degree from an elite college. More often than not, leaders who fit this perfect mold do better only in interviews.
Why do we mistake loudness for confidence?
Its human nature and one that is creating an era of bullies and social aggression. We often mistake a loud, aggressive, and bully-like person for one who has strength, can lead from the front, and can motivate the masses. Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign that was loud, aggressive, and wildly popular is proof of this mentality. The sad reality however is, that real strength has nothing to do with dramatic words – it stems from quiet determination and confidence, as Miranda Johnson explains in her post on Quiet Revolution. For the ones who have real strength, their actions speak louder than words.
So what are the often overlooked qualities that introverts have, that actually make them much better leaders?
Here are four surprising truths:
#1 Introverts are good listeners: Extroverts seldom fully listen to what the other person is saying. That’s because their brains are working on ‘what to say next’. Introverts, inherently, make better listeners because they essentially learn from listening. This one quality creates a huge impact when it comes to leadership – people look up to those who can listen, empathize, and internalize before they speak.
#2 Introverts are prudent risk-takers: Watchful, shy, and reserved are generally the traits associated with introverts. While these are not directly linked to success, these traits impact one‘s risk-taking ability and explains why introverts are more prudent when it comes to risky situations. They prefer planning for contingencies, having a solid fall-back mechanism, and assess the pros and cons before taking the leap. Extroverts on the other hand are more likely to have the ‘Let’s just do it’ attitude which though motivating can get very risky in business and financial situations.
#3 Introverts aren’t much affected by other’s perceptions: Throw them in a difficult situation – like a team challenge or a hackathon and you would see most introverts turn into perfect team players, helping their team mates complete the challenge. But invite them to a cocktail party and they’ll coil up and look for the nearest exit. Most successful introvert leaders credit their internal strength for their success – their ability to rise above what others think of them in challenging situations. They are more in control of their own emotions and that’s a huge step towards being an effective leader. Introverted entrepreneurs also make great virtual team leaders – where they don’t really have to be in presence of others but get to perform the role remotely.
#4 Introverts often have razor-sharp focus: ‘Alone and productive’ – that’s what most successful introverts will say fits them perfectly. From Bill Gates to Steve Jobs, J.K Rowling and many more – they all vouch that their most creative and game-changing ideas occur to them when they are on their own. Alone-time recharges their mental and physical energies like nothing else. Because they like to work alone, introvert leaders are also more likely to hire great employees and give them the freedom to work – without micromanaging.
The myth of introverts not being able to rise up the corporate ladder and losing out to more gregarious, extrovert counterparts is just that – a big myth. If you are an introvert, look for ways to channelize your inner strength for the benefit of yourself and those around you. Successful times beckon you!