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Leadership: The Introvert Perspective

In an assumptive society, introverts are some of the most misunderstood individuals in any environment whether it be at school, in a professional environment, in a band, on an athletic team. They are often perceived as being shy, boring, anti-social, or disengaged. To the contrary, introvert is not synonymous with any of these characteristics. Introverts tend to have more of an inward focus than extroverts. While they enjoy connecting with other individuals they are more appreciative of time they get to spend alone doing things they enjoy or reflecting on their own thoughts than extroverts. They tend to be much better listeners and are very independent.

Introverts have to be more purposeful in their actions to have presence as leaders, to keep up with multiple friends, to engage with strangers, to be an active member of an organization. It is not their natural tendency to lean into an excitable environment. They may seem quiet but, get them in the room one-on-one in conversation and they may become some of the most talkative people you’ve met. Believe it or not, introverts are also some of the most communicative, most fun, most friendly, most intelligent, and some of the wittiest people with whom you are familiar.

Michael Jordan, deemed one of the greatest basketball players of all-time, happens to be an introvert. He is dominant on the court, impressive in the air with a basketball in hand, vocal on the sidelines, in the locker room and in the media. Although a leader on the team, Michael is not the person who prefers to be the focal point of the crowd or constantly in social situations. Michael prefers to let his skills on the court and his awards in the trophy case speak for themselves.

Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, SpaceX, and The Boring Company, is transparent about the fact that he is like an introverted engineer. He shares his journey of success with others and the hard work he had to put into it to be able to constantly be on stage literally and figuratively speaking. He surrounds himself with teams that enable his characteristics of introversion to be maximized as strengths.

Steve Wozniak is extremely well known as the co-founder of Apple. But, if you were to ask Steve how he likes to spend his time at work he would tell you he prefers to work alone. He prefers to think alone, strategize alone and communicate in ways that don’t require engagement with a team.

Meryl Streep like many actresses is also someone who doesn’t gain energy from spending a good portion of her time hanging in crowds. She is a three-time Academy winner who breathes her energy into every character she plays and brings each role to life. Like Meryl in her acting roles, introverts can often “play the role” of an extrovert when needed in social or professional situations. This allows them to be more effective and successful at work or be part of a group to enjoy an activity when needed. Once the event is over, they typically go back to enjoying personal time so they can re-charge.

Introverts just need a different balance of independence and engagement. Seeking to understand and respecting that balance can make a big difference when it comes to collaborating with or leading an introvert. At the end of the day, introversion is no more of a differentiation or aspect of diversity than other personality characteristics. Potentially, it simply gets lost in the noise of what is considered an extroverted society.

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