Recent trends show that employers in the modern corporate world are more interested toward candidates who can lead as well as follow. This emphasis on leadership can seem daunting to introverted individuals. After all, leadership seems to be something that comes to one naturally and introverts who prefer their own company to others, rarely display these qualities without prompting. But all is not lost. Leadership is not just a quality but also a skill and like all other skills, leadership can be developed. With a little bit of initiative, introverts can translate the skills they already possess into that of a leader. Here are a few suggestions that can help introverts become the leaders that they have the potential to be.
Learning as much as possible about the related field
The first requirement to be a leader is to be good at own work. There is no possible way one can be a good leader, introvert or otherwise, if he or she is not proficient. One has to study a few different perspectives and take multiple approaches to understand one’s field. Similarly, it is crucial to understand the concepts and tasks related to the project one is going to lead. One needs to study thoroughly to become expert in one's own tasks. The saying "knowledge is power" has endured for so long for a reason.
Using listening skills as an advantage
Speaking with mind is important to be a leader, and the pre-requisite for being a good speaker is being a good listener. A study from Harvard Business found that introverts tend to make better leaders when they can utilise their listening skills. A leader has to pay attention to the supervisors as well as team members, co-workers and subordinates. One must think through all available information before speaking. Good leaders do not need to be constant talkers if they can make their words count.
Observing and absorbing
Another way to communicate well with the team members is to observe them. Most introverts find it easier to speak to someone if they know the people they are talking to. Introverts also tend not to talk for the sake of speaking. Thus, their ideas are more developed. Furthermore, introverts can catch the subtle nuances and complexities of a situation through observation. One needs to be sure to properly process and absorb the observations. This will lead to better communication which is crucial for a leader
Having a plan
It is often difficult for an introvert to interrupt or join a conversation with own ideas. This is why the best course of action might be laying it all out there as quickly as possible in the beginning of a meeting. It also helps to have a plan prepared beforehand. Getting own ideas out at the very beginning puts one's voice out there which also helps to establish him/her as an active speaker. Others may refer back to his/her comments in the meeting which certainly takes some of the pressure off.
Getting comfortable being uncomfortable
There is no reason that a good leader cannot be introverted. However, he or she has no choice but to step out of the comfort zone. One can use a good many of his/her natural traits as introvert to lead, but some extrovert qualities have to be adopted. Good communication skills, particularly, is essential to be a successful leader. Introverts will have to push themselves to communicate and bond with their co-workers even if it is not ideal because stepping out of comfort zone expands the abilities. It may feel like too much initially, but with time, it will come easier.
Leading by example
The best way to prove oneself as a leader is to be the example to the team members in own terms. Those who are not assertive can compensate through resolve, determination and industry. One certainly needs to communicate with observations, provide kind feedback and explain the importance of new rule if one is enforced. Studies show that almost 50 per cent of the population is introverted, but only 4.0 per cent of them are in leadership roles. By being a skilled and good leader, one can motivate the team members as well as frame what an introverted leader should look like.
Leadership can be attained by anyone if one is aware of the attributes involved in being a great leader. Leadership is a regular practice which requires individuals to step out of their comfort zone and create another bubble of their own voice, skills, and adaptive personality. Introversion has its own pros and cons just like every other personalities of human beings. Hence, it should not act as a hindrance towards the journey of self enhancement.
The writer is studying at BRAC University. She can be reached at