The Power of Quiet

By Marsha Koelmel

Co-President of Catapult

In western culture, there is an unconscious bias that favors extroverted qualities in a leader – being outgoing, gregarious and talkative. Yet research concludes that about half of the US population identifies as introverted. If you and your leadership team have an unconscious preference for extroverted qualities such as charisma and social energy, there is undoubtedly significant untapped potential in your ranks.

Five of today’s most successful leaders are introverts. In fact, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg, Marissa Mayer and Elon Musk are among those who identify as introverts.

In our work with high-potential leaders, we found that introverted individuals are often overlooked or passed by in favor of their extroverted peers. By familiarizing yourself with the qualities and gifts of the introvert and how to get the best from them, you can maximize not only their potential but the performance of your team.

What is introversion?

Introversion is a personality style characterized by a preference for the inner life of the mind over the outer world of other people. More simply said, while extroverts are energized by being around other people, introverts are energized by being alone. Introverts do enjoy being with other people and can behave in extroverted ways. But in doing so, they give their energy away and need to spend time in solitude to recharge their battery.

The value of introverts on a team

With a low threshold for small talk, introverts enjoy conversations that are deep and meaningful. They are typically great listeners which can make them highly attuned to those with whom they engage.

Introverts are creative problem solvers. However, they prefer to ideate on their own rather than brainstorm with a team. While introverts’ behavior may lead others to conclude they are not committed or engaged, their solitary thinking and problem solving has led to some of society’s greatest creations including the theory of relativity, the personal computer and Harry Potter! Introverts such as Albert Einstein, Steve Wozniak and J.K. Rowling exemplify the creative edge that can come from strong engagement with one’s inner world.

Can introverts be leaders?

Introverts make excellent leaders because they tend to be guided by their own values. They make difficult decisions through careful analysis without feeling the intense need for social approval.

They influence others and lead them to important goals by quiet power rather than charisma.

The quiet leader listens when others speak. Because they are thoughtful about what they say, their team and peers learn to listen to them when they speak.

Introverts are quietly confident and typically very humble people who do not want to draw attention to themselves. They prefer to work in small groups and often dive deep into creative thinking and analysis before they share ideas outside of the team.

When it comes to building relationships, introverts take their time. Their process of making connections is slow but meaningful. It results in deep relationships which tend to be more personally and professionally rewarding.

4 Ways to Get the Best From an Introvert:

#1 Allow them time to think

If possible, send discussion topics in advance to allow the introverts on your team to think about the agenda and prepare their thoughts. When that is not possible or practical, ensure you allow introverts time to process before sharing ideas, whether that’s during the meeting or afterwards. When others are dominating the conversation, invite introverts to share their ideas after a reasonable period of time.

#2 Listen

When introverts speak, they’re usually not just saying something that’s popped into their head. Instead, they’ve thought of multiple options and chosen the best one to share out loud. Ask questions to better understand the thought process that led them to the ideas they are sharing.

#3 Choose communication methods thoughtfully

One-on-one interaction and written communication are often preferred by introverts. Group discussions make it easy to withdraw. However, written communication allows time to process the message internally without any interruption resulting in a better solution or outcome. If you’re in doubt of which method works best, just ask them.

#4 Allow time to recharge

While extroverts are energized by being around and interacting with other people, introverts gain their energy by spending time alone or with others they trust in quiet environments. It’s important for both those preferring introversion and introverted leaders to monitor their own well-being and ensure they have enough alone time to be at their best.

Catapult can help

As Executive Coaches, we spend a significant amount of time one-on-one with high-potential leaders and have helped many introverted managers find their voice in an extroverted world. If you see an introvert when you look in the mirror or would like to learn more about how to maximize your team’s performance, contact us for a free consultation at 716-256-1550.

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