Leadership Tips for Introverts
As all introverts know, extroversion is an ideal that is celebrated and promoted in our society. It starts at a young age, too. You might remember your parents very early on apologizing for your “shyness” or being asked by a teacher to “come out of your shell,” as if not being the most vocal kid in class meant you had retreated to your armored body suit. Extroversion is seen as a sign of success in many circles, and those for whom being outgoing comes naturally are the ones to whom people will generally gravitate. It is hard to dispute. Society says it is “the right way to be” and it is reinforced by people’s behavior. However, how do we explain that the majority of people are actually introverts? In fact, some of the greatest leaders throughout history have been introverts, for instance Mahatma Gandhi, Warren Buffet and Albert Einstein.
What we find is that introverts are often misunderstood, and leadership certainly does not always require vocal, social and charismatic individuals. In addition to the extroverted leaders we all know due their effectiveness at being seen and recognized, the world also needs leaders who show poise, exhibit great listening skills, analyze complex situations before making a decision, and exude calm in times of conflict. Here are 5 tips any introvert can use to become a better leader.
1. Listen first, talk second. This is something that comes naturally to introverts, and it is an often underutilized skill in the business world. One key to being viewed as a respected leader is to actively listen to your friends, family, staff and patients and then provide guidance and answers. According to Susan Cain, in her novel Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, “There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.”
2. Step up during times of crisis. Crises, both at home and at work, are a part of life. It’s how you respond to these moments of adversity that matter. So step up and be the “voice of reason” when bad stuff happens. Where others might see a crisis, introverted leaders see an opportunity. As an exercise, think about what “crises” might arise in your practice, and then think about how you would naturally respond. Then imagine yourself stepping up and approaching the event or situation as an opportunity to showcase your talents.
3. Get out of your comfort zone. Introverts are generally more comfortable working alone than with people, yet as a dentist, you might say, “I’m working with people all the time!” However, as a medical provider, you may be helping people, but it is within a very strict dynamic in which you are the expert to whom the patient is coming for a specific purpose. There is not much interchange or give and take. In fact, extroverts might be jumping out of their skin within this dynamic.
You also may not like to speak in front of groups. But the reality is, working collaboratively with other people and getting in front of groups are things that all great leaders need to do sometimes. So force yourself to participate in “small talk” once in a while, even if you think it’s useless. Take a public speaking class, such as Toastmasters. Take the lead on overhauling your practice management solution at work, even though this might put you out of your comfort zone. Work on getting a little better at the things you’re not particularly great at each week.
4. Get into your comfort zone. Introverts spend a lot of time in their own heads. And we need this time. It’s how we recharge, reflect, and come up with great ideas. So set time aside every single day, even if it’s just 15 minutes. Find somewhere quiet to sit down and just be. Let the thoughts flow through your head like clouds. And when you’re done, jot down any new ideas that came to mind, which leads to our next tip.
5. Write it down. Introverts tend to be better at writing than speaking. That’s why you should put your ideas down on paper before you speak about them. And here’s a tip for making your key points “stick,” whether it’s during a business meeting or after speaking at a conference: Leave them with something. Create a simple 1-2 page document summing up your salient points, answering anticipated questions and objections, and offering to answer any additional questions.
You’ll probably notice a trend with most of these leadership tips. Most of them come naturally to introverts. So leverage your intrinsic strengths. Acknowledge, accept and improve upon your areas in which you struggle. And always remember this:
“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” – Gandhi
Dr. Gale provides coaching and training to enhance leadership skills, interpersonal communications and team building. If you would like to learn more, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.orgForward this article to a friend
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