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This is how to succeed as an introverted leader

Start by understanding your strengths.

This is how to succeed as an introverted leader
[Photo: markusspiske /Pixabay]

The business world seems to be dominated by extroverts. They speak up in meetings, they network well, and people admire them for their charismatic and outgoing personalities. They also tend to advocate for themselves to advance their careers. They’re the squeaky wheels that get the oil.

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Being a squeaky wheel pays off, usually in the form of promotions and career progression into leadership roles. The vast majority of leaders at the highest level in business are extroverts, with one study showing that introverts make up just 25% to 30% of CEOs.

However, merely obtaining a leadership title is one thing. Succeeding as a leader is quite another. A recent study by researchers at Harvard, Stanford, and the University of Chicago looked at 4,591 CEOs. They found that publicly traded companies run by extroverts averaged a slightly lower return on assets (2%) than those run by introverts. This tells us that while extroverts might be more prevalent in business, introverts appear to perform at least as well, if not better, than extroverts in key leadership roles.

If you’re an introverted leader or manager, here are some tips on how you can leverage your natural personality traits to succeed in your career.

Understand what your natural leadership traits are, and communicate them to your team

Introverts are fortunate in that they possess a large number of unique skills that are critical for leadership roles. They’re able to focus intensely to solve problems. They can see the big picture. They can give compelling presentations and are valuable contributors to building an inclusive work culture.

In business, it’s imperative to know what you’re good at and leverage those skills to bring value to your company. If you’re an introverted leader, make sure your manager, team members, and colleagues know what you’re best at, so they know how they can help you be at your best.

Be hyperaware of your weak spots

Similarly, it’s essential in business to know what you’re not good at, then come up with mitigation strategies. As an introverted leader myself, I know I’m not naturally good at remaining visible, organizing team outings, and holding lots of in-person meetings. I also tend to let others take credit for my work, and I don’t request help or say no to things as often as I should.

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But I actively work on improving these weak spots. For example, I try not to crowd my calendar with more than 20 hours of in-person meetings a week. I frequently exceed that amount when I count video and audio calls, but I find these to be less stimulating, so they are less likely to result in “meeting fatigue.”

Understand personality types, and manage people accordingly

If you’re an introverted manager, it can be hard to identify with extroverts and what makes them tick. The things that motivate a highly extroverted person might not always line up with what would drive you, or other introverts on your team. This is why it’s helpful to identify the extroverts and introverts in your team so you can harness their unique skills.

Ever since I became a manager, I’ve always made it a voluntary exercise for people to share their Myers-Briggs profile with their fellow team members and me. Knowing the different personality types on your team can be extremely beneficial in two everyday situations at work. One instance is during disagreements. When you understand each other’s personality, you’ll be in a better place to identify how they work with each other. Another scenario might be when you’re coaching an individual and want to understand how to motivate them better. When you have more insight into their personality, you’ll be in a better place to align the team’s work and the company’s objectives with their goals.

Choose your workplace with care

As an introvert, I’ve always gravitated toward work that I could do that required a high degree of remote interaction with other people, without limiting me to the confines of a physical office. If you’re an introvert, look out for signs that demonstrate an introvert-friendly work environment–such as whether they embrace remote work, if they have a robust virtual culture, and whether there are spaces where you can work alone.

In U.S. business culture, it will probably always be true that “the squeaky wheel gets the oil.” But on the flip side, companies also want their businesses to operate efficiently without constantly having to stop what they’re doing to add more oil. They rely on those motors to run efficiently and effectively, and in fact, they sometimes forget how important they are.

Introverted leaders play a critical role in companies–even if it’s not always as visible. Just make sure, if only for your team’s sake, to rev the engine occasionally.

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Nataly Kelly is the VP of international strategy and operations at HubSpot.

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