Introverts are looked at sceptically when it comes to allocating leadership roles. The general perception is such people are deep thinkers, calm and reserved and may not be good leaders. Also, the traits of a successful leader are mostly always similar to the traits of an extrovert.

All these work against introverts. However, the truth is that a strong leader doesn’t have to necessarily be socially engaging or outgoing. But they need to be strategic visionaries, empathetic and thoughtful — qualities introverts can possess or easily develop.

So we need to get rid of this belief that introverts cannot be good leaders and actively motivate capable introverts to take leadership roles.

Breaking down common misconceptions

Common misconceptions about introverted leaders include that they are less talkative, poor communicators, not open to social interactions, not team players, slow to open up, slow decision-makers, and weak in making bold decisions, says RP Yadav, Chairman & Managing Director, Genius Consultants Ltd, a staffing and HR solutions provider.

Charu Malhotra, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Primus Partners, says we tend to judge personalities through a unidimensional lens. People assume introverts lack assertiveness and effective leadership needs an outgoing and eager-to-socialise leader. However, being an introvert doesn’t necessarily translate to being a recluse.

She says an introvert may prefer to lead by influencing others rather than displaying authority or commanding them. Plus, the assumption that introverts are indecisive and struggle to handle crises is absolutely incorrect, she adds.Characteristics that make introverts excellent leaders
In Yadav’s experience, approachability is the most important characteristic of an introverted leader. They communicate more through their eyes and behaviour rather than words, and this makes them very approachable to their subordinates. This approachability makes them effective leaders because team members feel comfortable coming to them with problems.

In addition, he says, while their deep listening skills help them understand their team’s needs and concerns better, their tendency toward thoughtfulness and reflection allows them to consider various perspectives and make informed decisions. They are also highly empathetic, and remain calm and composed during a crisis, which makes it easier to provide stability and reassurance to their teams. As introverts focus their attention intently on others to understand their perspective, Malhotra says, it wouldn’t be wrong to call them good listeners. However, she clarifies that this may not be universally true.

Like Yadav, she also says that empathy is an extremely important trait that can make a leader highly successful. Such a personality trait can be valuable in high-pressure situations, where we need leaders to remain calm and composed for better decision-making. Having said that, she makes it clear that being introverted and calm needn’t be mutually inclusive.

Moreover, an introvert may also be able to cut out distractions as their seemingly reflective nature allows them to focus on tasks that may help solve complex problems, she adds.

Strategies for introverted leaders to motivate their teams
Introverted individuals need not undergo a 360-degree change in order to strategically lead their teams. They can leverage their unique traits to create their own leadership style.

Experts suggest engaging in one-on-one meetings to establish strong relationships and understand every team member’s motivation and challenges. Next, delegating effectively, being approachable to subordinates any given time, and trusting individuals to take ownership of their tasks can help foster a collaborative environment.

Another piece of advice for introverts is to have difficult conversations with empathy, regardless of the challenges. At the same time, giving credit for good work and calling out when needed can help subordinates experience consistent growth.

The key is to focus on recognising and leveraging each team member’s strengths, providing tailored professional growth opportunities, and building a positive, inclusive and empowering culture to ensure that team members grow along with you at every step of the journey, add experts.

Lastly, they say as mutual agreement may not always be the case, a leader must learn to develop ways to drive diverse opinions towards the common goal of achieving organisational growth. Moreover, whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, developing your own personal leadership style is what can put you up for continuous success as a leader.

Address a few potential challenges along the way
Introverted leaders may encounter a few challenges while trying to lead their teams. Experts say the most common challenge faced by them is lack of visibility. Hence, increasing visibility by actively participating in meetings and sharing opinions and feedback can be immensely helpful.

Public speaking or leading large gatherings is another key job of a leader that many introverts may struggle with. This issue can be resolved by building confidence through small meetings and then gradually moving on to larger setups. Along with this, building professional relationships during networking events can be done seamlessly by engaging in intimate, one-on-one interactions and proceeding with these events with clear goals in mind.

Conflicts are a common occurrence in diverse workplaces, and a leader has an indispensable role in resolving them. So, to avoid major disputes and quickly make thoughtful decisions under intense pressure, introverted leaders should have a few innovative frameworks and strategies up their sleeves, say experts.

Breaking the mould
Yadav says there are many examples of introverts who were able to break their barriers and set strong examples for others to follow. He lists Lal Bahadur Sastri, Rajendra Prasad, “to some extent our former President” Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, and APJ Abdul Kalam as some.

In terms of business leaders, he says Narayana Murthy and Mukesh Ambani are quite introverted, but have been ruling their respective business domains. In sports, he says extremely talented and widely acknowledged players like Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid, are quite introverted characters but have been able to establish flourishing careers.

“I feel that at some point, introversion and extroversion meet. So the characters bloom accordingly and the world perceives them in many ways, but it can always be said that introverted leaders are highly capable and ready to take on the world equally as extroverted leaders,” he adds.

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