In our competitive, always-churning, constantly stimulating digital world, the head-down, deep-thinking working style of most introverts isn’t regarded as the best tactic for success.
It’s belief that speaking out — loudly and often — is what gets you heard and recognized. This might be the case in the beginning, but the introverts’ quiet, more introspective way of doing things has a competitive edge to leading a stronger, more effective, and independently-thinking team.
Below are five strengths introverts have that can make them better leaders.
1. They have a natural tendency to think deeply.
Social interactions and crowds are said to “overstimulate” introverts and drain their physical energy, said Susan Cain, author of the book Quiet, in her wildly popular 2012 Ted Talk. But it’s not that introverts don’t enjoy being around people; studies actually find that introverts feel the same amount of pleasure as extroverts in social situations. The difference between the two is that introverts would rather have intimate conversations and subsequently, retreat to a quiet place to think deeply and profoundly about their thoughts and feelings. This level of self-reflection does not come easy for most people and is actually an extremely valuable skill to have, especially in a time when knowing yourself is imperative in the midst of all the noise. Additionally, these analytical skills lead introverts to make careful, well thought-out decisions.
2. They’re better listeners.
It’s hard to ignore the louder voice, but better listeners are the ones who stand out. Billionaire Richard Branson actually said it’s the one skill that makes a great leader.
“Leaders who are great listeners are often terrific at uncovering and putting in place strategies and plans that have a big impact,” the Virgin Group founder wrote in Entrepreneur.com.
It turns out, introverts are considered great listeners because they have a strong ability to concentrate and block out distractions during the task at hand. When you’re a good listener, you’re able to dig into what people really mean when they speak. Often, people don’t say what they mean because it’s uncomfortable to speak the truth. Peeling off this layer is a valuable skill to have, but most people can’t pause long enough to uncover the truths.
In his book Just Listen, author Mark Goulston discusses how leaders who are good listeners are able to anticipate problems, build trust, promote stronger relationships and hence, win loyalty from their team.
3. They appear smarter through the power of silence.
The most quiet person in the room is often believed to be the smartest. Since introverts are such good listeners and prefer to observe their surroundings rather than participate, it makes sense that they often use silence as a power move. Silences are known to be uncomfortable so most people will come up with whatever topic of conversation they can to break the silence. In these instances, the most successful leaders are able to monitor themselves and are comfortable with silences during conversations. The ability to be quiet is extremely advantageous because you always walk away knowing more about the other party than they do about your own thoughts and ideas.
4. They form deeper networks.
It’s not about how many people you know; it’s whether you know the right people. Introverts have a natural tendency to draw people to them and often engage in more meaningful networking compared to extroverts, who often focus on quantity rather than quality. Introverts have an excellent attention to detail, which often puts others at ease and easily elicits trust when developing new relationships.
5. They make better leaders for creatives.
Just because extroverts are more likely chosen for leadership roles doesn’t mean that introverts don’t make good leaders. In fact, when it come to effectiveness in leadership, research finds that while extroverts serves as better leaders for passive employees who need more direction and guidance, success was greater in proactive, go-getters when led by introverts. According to one study from Harvard Business School, introverted leaders are better at listening and allow engaged, creative types to run with their ideas and don’t have the need to take credit for their team’s success.
In a world where outgoing, social people are seen as more confident and happier, it’s the ones able to identify their people’s needs and plan more carefully who will make better, stronger, and more influential leaders.