When you think of the word ‘leader’, outgoing and outspoken figures come into our minds-eye, but why? Why do we associate leaders with this image, what self imposed rules have we laid down to only acknowledge certain types of leaders?
Introverted characteristics align with softer skill sets; they listen, they analyse behaviour, they plan for uncertainty and above everything else, they are humble. If a leader possesses these qualities, the people who work for them will generally feel heard and content - maximising the chance of good overall mental wellbeing at work.
In 2001 the Fortune 500 company Campbell’s Soup received the worst employee engagement score in history, resulting in 62% of managers claiming to be disengaged. This led to the appointment of Douglas Conant as new their CEO.
Conant wrote an article for The Harvard Business Review, in which he said: “As an introvert, I enjoy being by myself… But as a CEO of a company with more than 18,000 employees, I’ve found myself particularly challenged because so much of my work requires me to be ‘out there’ in front of others. In meetings, introverts can often be perceived as aloof, disinterested, shy or retiring… When viewed from the outside, it may seem that I’m not openly contributing as much as I could or should, but that’s just because I’m busy listening and thinking.”
During Conant’s intuitive and introverted leadership he promoted those who were high performing within the company, he wrote 30,000 notes of gratitude to employees including contractors and temporary employees. As well as this he increased the company’s overall engagement score to 68% and boosted their profits.
Here are some distinct qualities introverts possess:
Being humble is difficult for some, it involves championing those within your team, and not taking credit (even when you had a part to play.) It also involves welcoming feedback (however constructive it is) - and always looking for ways to improve and grow. Most of all, it requires showing humility at all times.
In a workplace environment meetings can be rife, and meetings involve a lot of talking. Extroverts will generally talk, and even when they are not talking they are just waiting for the gap in conversation when they can share their latest flash of inspiration. Introverted people tend to observe, and listen. Introverts aren’t waiting to jump in, they absorb everything and build on what is being said. In turn, building a strong picture of the skills and opinions that live within the business.
An analytical mind
Analysing and assessing situations and people takes time and patience. Introverts tend to sit back and watch scenarios unfold, which results in them being able to tackle any type of environment. Which means that they are well equipped to manage uncertainty which is probably what the country needs right about now… (did someone mention Brexit?)
Quality, not quantity
It’s very stereotypical to assume that introverted people don’t talk much, we can’t make that assumption. However, introverted people have the innate ability to highlight the key and important areas, if they were revision notes they would be highlighted and underlined bits. They don’t overload with extra or background information, which can sometimes be helpful when it comes down to crucial decision making.
By an introvert’s very nature they are good at being alone, the cats of the human world - solitary and observant. In a working environment those who can integrate themselves into team work, as well as working on concepts and ideas on their own are extremely valuable.