Every day, we work with clients who identify themselves as introverts.
In the leadership development sector, many successful consultants believe extroverted behaviour is correlated with confidence and success (remembering that no one is either an introvert or extrovert, that we all swing from tendencies between the two).
Funnily enough, introverted leaders are usually the first to reach out for help, identifying their need for development quickly due to frequent reflection and high emotional intelligence.
Occasionally, introversion is used by a client as a reason not to do something, such as take that public speaking opportunity, to choose to work for others rather than build their own dream or as a story they tell themselves not to collaborate with others. This happened recently with a client of mine, who worked in a small team of 12. I wondered whether the frame of introversion was really a blocker for growth, a fear of something that did not actually exist, a reason for not seizing an opportunity and a long-held story she had told herself dating back to childhood.
We unpacked the reasons she held onto introversion as a badge of honour, and a reason to shrink her world. Rather than seeing introversion and leadership as incompatible, we reframed it and used it as a strength, referring to it as ‘quiet leadership’.
In Susan Cain’s book ‘Quiet’, she refers to the view that modern society is set up for the extrovert to succeed, over those who prefer to sit back and observe.
In developing the leaders for the future, do we unconsciously encourage dynamics and frameworks that lend themselves to extroverted environments?
Thousands of years ago in the village, the quiet leader would quietly go around to the groups of people and light the fires in the camps to create warmth and comfort for the brave warriors, and in turn, lead the nurturing environment and set the stage for nourishment and warmth. A role that was just as important as the courageous front line.
Sadly, quiet leaders often struggle to believe that they are worth the spotlight – and the opportunity to invest in themselves, quietly and purposefully, to develop these peaceful leadership skills that seem to draw others in, dwindles.
Craft believes you can still be an effective leader if you prefer not to communicate your leadership skills in an extroverted way.
Here are six things a quiet leader can do to amplify their voice and develop a leadership style that is quiet, reflective and powerful:
Stay open – a quiet leader can be quite the brooding cloud when they need to withdraw their energy to recharge – the shift can be particularly confusing for others. Communicate that you are only withdrawing to recharge, and that you are still approachable and open will help others to gravitate towards you, which maintains your centred influence.
Be clear – Focus on communicating clearly, and often. Working on communicating with clarity, intention and allowing others into your thoughts more often. As a quiet leader, we sometimes forget the mind to mouth connection and find it hard to articulate to others what is so clear to us in our own minds
Unpack the ‘why’ – through behavioural diagnostics, unpack any stories you may be telling yourself unconsciously about why extroversion is negative or threatening, and introversion is safe. Often we stay as a wallflower out of fear, which is not constructive.
Become a mentor – Find and create opportunities to learn to trust your voice (no matter how quiet) through guiding and amplifying others voices around you, in turn amplifying your own
Be accountable – Rather than using ‘we’ when describing successful outcomes in the workplace, have the courage to stand by your achievements by using ‘I’ when describing a win that you have contributed to
Refill the well – quiet leaders can burn out quickly if they don’t look after themselves. Counterbalance days of exertion with moments of quiet and work self-care into a daily routine