Can You Be a Good Leader if You Are an Introvert?

Introverts can exert a different type of leadership, likely to be put into profit when the times come to manage a team in a constantly evolving environment. Explanations.

Too often, the image of the leader with an extroverted personality who is both charismatic and authoritarian comes to mind. But as Caroline Coulombe, professor and researcher at UQAM's School of Management (ESG) stated, the idea that a leader must always match this definition is incorrect. On the contrary, introverts may have certain qualities that can make them the much better leaders.

Introverts are more attentive to others. Their more reserved nature explains why they avoid drawing attention to themselves at all costs. They are more inclined to seek out other team members and take interest in what the latter have to say. This capacity for introspection enables them to better grasp each person's potential. Therefore introverts are flexible and will readily welcome outside ideas to resolve a problem.

They favor reflective thinking over immediate action. Citing the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), Caroline Coulombe explained that introverts keep their ideas for themselves until they are perfect, or almost. Thanks to this reflective thinking process, they are able to resolve problems, no matter the circumstances. "The bubble they need to put themselves in allows them to step back and hone their ideas through self-reflection, rather than impulse," the professor said. According to her, this process helps them stay focused at all times and enables them to keep a clear mind.  

Introverts often exhibit a calmer personality. In times of crisis, namely, their calm nature enables them to more easily stay the course. "A calm, confident demeanor in times of crisis is soothing and gives hope to employees," said Bernadette Smith, Vice President, and head of Training Solutions at the Canadian Management Centre in Toronto in the Canadian HR Reporter.

To control their communications, they prefer doing it in writing. Less at ease orally then extraverts, introverts often seek to perfect their written communication, which will then be well-honed. Ideas will therefore be more focused and targeted than orally, and can be better grasped by the team.

If introverts prefer working in small groups, they are also able to maintain genuine relationships. According to Bernadette Smith, they prefer the less is more motto, enabling them to build valuable relationships with people they can trust.  

Finally, as Caroline Coulombe noted, leadership draws on skills and abilities that are human, technical and strategic. "Knowing who you are and clearly explaining your management style to team members is key," reminded the professor. She believes both types of personalities, extrovert and introvert, can make good leaders. "This is why more and more companies are forming duos, a president and right-hand person, for example, in order to have personalities complementing one another," she concluded.

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