With all the meetings, presentations and networking events, sometimes the business world can feel like the domain of extroverts. But introverts can be some of the most successful leaders. People often assume that introversion means being shy or antisocial in some way. Instead, it has to do with how you respond to stimulation. It is not merely a preference; it operates at the level of the nervous system.
Susan Cain’s book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” opened a great discussion about the unique value of introverts, who, according to Cain, make up one-third to one-half of Americans.
As we talk this month about being bold, remember that an introvert’s quiet strength is its own form of boldness. Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert (as I am), here’s some basic information you should understand.
Recognize the value you bring
Although introverts and extroverts are equally intelligent (as measured by their IQs), they have different problem-solving styles. Cain points out that introverts usually think before they act, digest information thoroughly, stay on task longer, and are less likely to give up. This means greater accuracy and persistence in their work, which offers tremendous value to a team or organization.
Introverts can also be less reward-sensitive than extroverts. This means that they can focus on the end-goal and take time to process the valuable lessons they learn as they pursue the goal. In other words, they can downplay the reward to consider other important factors and compare the results against their expectations.
Extroverts, on the other hand, may not reflect long enough to glean these insights. As they face roadblocks, they often increase their pace in an effort to knock down roadblocks and reach the goal quickly. When forced to slow down, an extrovert will do just as well as an introvert.
Manage your energy
Although they like people, introverts recharge by spending time alone. After a day full of stimulating meetings designed to drive collaboration, introverts may feel depleted. Introverts should plan quiet time to keep their energy up, especially if they work in an open environment. Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, remember that some activities will drain you while others will energize you. Recognize the difference and proactively plan your day to manage your energy.
As you think about your leadership, explore the work of Susan Cain to learn more about introversion and the value of the quieter side of leadership. And remember that every introvert and extrovert may not fit these descriptions.