Leadership: Unsuspected Qualities of Introverts

Leadership: Unsuspected Qualities of Introverts

What do Emma Watson, Hillary Clinton, and Marissa Mayer have in common? A journey marked by success, of course, but also an introvert personality, which hasn’t stopped them from making their way – and making it work!

 Yet often, when we think of “success” and “leader”, we picture people who are outgoing, at ease speaking in public, and who love being around people. In business, these extroverts fill most leadership positions, even though they only represent half the population.

Though she did have to come to terms with certain parts of her role, like communications, Brigitte Hébert, Executive Vice-President – Employee Experience at National Bank of Canada, maintains that this facet of her personality has valuable benefits. “It allows me to step back and have more perspective. Over time, I’ve developed my emotional intelligence and listening skills that help me better read my surroundings, be more understanding, and therefore bring even more relevance to my leadership.”

According to SGM President and CREW M member Sonia Gagnon, we’d be wise to take a cue from introverts – not to be confused with those who are “shy” –, who know how to come out on top, often by using a management style that is somewhat gentler. Here’s the five-part proof! 

5 Introvert Qualities You’d Do Well to Learn From 

1. They’re good listeners

Introverts demonstrate high-level receptiveness. A 2010 study suggested that in environments in constant flux, they are often more effective leaders, especially with creative and proactive employees. “If you want innovative ideas to burst forth, especially as collaborative leadership becomes increasingly widespread in business, listening and being open to others are essential qualities,” explains Sonia Gagnon.

“If the leader knows how to take action!” Brigitte Hébert clarifies. “Introverted leaders must be able to translate and channel their listening and openness into the ability to influence and win people over.” Something an extrovert does very well. 

2. They put their alone time to good use

How many introvert authors (think of J.K. Rowling) willingly sequester themselves to put to paper the twists and turns of the characters who will inhabit their readers’ imaginations? Spending alone time reading, meditating, or drawing fuels creativity, a valuable ally in any professional’s career. 

3. They get to the bottom of things

Undertaking research on a very pointed subject doesn’t scare them, on the contrary. In her TED talk, author (and self-proclaimed introvert) Susan Cain declared that writing her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, took her seven years – “seven years of total bliss!” In a professional context, this tendency of digging deep helps an employee or leader to always be well-prepared and make informed decisions.

4. They often prove to be skilled communicators

 In a Forbes article, you can read about an introverted financial officer who uses his company’s internal blog to ensure close contact with his employees. Liking writing not only allows him to formulate and communicate his ideas clearly, but also to express himself verbally and be accessible. In a digital age of social media and email, this is not to be overlooked!

“I have to be very well-prepared to communicate effectively”, Brigitte Hébert admits. Though she envies her extrovert colleagues for whom speaking up comes much more naturally, she maintains that she is a sensitive manager who, over the years, has developed her ability “to connect mind to heart and create meaning”, which has had a positive impact on her communication.

5. They favour a calm attitude 

LinkedIn editor Rahul Sinha explains that this behaviour is particularly appreciated in a crisis. Be like these tranquil forces, and instead cultivate a poised, confident, analytical approach: your colleagues will appreciate it and will listen to you more.

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