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Can Introverts Succeed as Corporate Leaders?

February 16, 2015

By: Diana Schneidman

The short answer is “yes.” But first, to understand how introverts can climb the corporate ladder, we must understand..."What is an introvert?"

An introvert is a person who is energized by being alone and loses energy when being with other people. In contrast, an extrovert is energized by other people and often avoids working solo. Introverts crave quiet environments; extroverts demand stimulation. (A third category, the ambivert, is positioned at the midpoint on the introversion/extroversion spectrum.)

Let’s clarify. An introvert may not be shy. Shyness is a form of discomfort when being with others, marked by anxiety and timidity. Nor does introversion mean poor people skills. Introverts may be quite capable of having friends, developing deep relationships, and communicating with others.

In America, extroversion is the preferred way of relating to others. To the introvert, it may seem as though he is different from others and everyone else is extroverted.

However, it is estimated that one-third or even more of the population is introverted. Many people try to disguise their fundamental orientation because of our society’s bias in favor of outgoing, act-quickly-and-think-later people. Companies tend to promote people who are highly visible, sometimes even if their contributions lack value.

Introverts have unique strengths. If you are an introvert (or you supervise introverts), behavioral assessments can help you pinpoint strengths and how they play out. You can harness these talents and express them in ways that support your career.

Are you an introvert? Here are 5 tips to help you succeed at work:

1. Adapt corporate communication styles to maximize your presence.

Meetings, in particular, are often a problem for introverts, as extroverts claim the spotlight and won’t let go. Introverts often feel the need to think—perhaps at length—before they speak.

Review the agenda in advance so you can formulate contributions in advance rather than trying to make out your stance on the spot. Gather any data you need beforehand so you are confident in your input. Try to engage early in the meeting so you don’t feel pressure throughout the event to make yourself heard. When you chair a meeting, recognize other introverts and assure that they have their say uninterrupted.

2. Meet individually with coworkers to prepare for meetings, develop ideas and persuade them of your viewpoint.

Introverts are often more effective one to one than speaking before a group. Engage in brainstorming so you can flesh out your viewpoints before the big event.

Working with your contacts consistently and growing their numbers over time through referrals from a small core of relationships is now called “networking.” It’s a highly respected process that can prove natural for introverts with a little practice. So why not campaign for your ideas and align others to support your goals?

3. Supplement oral communications with written communication.

Follow up on meetings with emails that expand upon your thoughts. Technology gives us new ways to interact with others; some of these tools, especially those that involve writing or the graphical representation of data, can bolster our positions quite effectively. Test out social media to determine which ones support your influence over coworkers most effectively. You may even journal for your own eyes only to clarify your ideas for yourself.

4. Give others your full attention when you speak with them.

The ability to listen attentively is a gift often enjoyed by introverts. If you possess this strength, share it with others. They will appreciate your full attention and respect you for it.

5. Savor your ideas.

Introverts are often quite intelligent and engrossed in their own ideas. Assure that your ideas are recognized by others. For starters, express them with confidence at meetings rather than diffidently. Try to get your ideas out early rather than doubting them until someone else says something similar (but not as effectively).

Many introverts are stars in their fields. Abraham Lincoln, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are introverts. So are Julia Roberts, Barbara Walters, and Clint Eastwood. With a little online research, you’ll find the list goes on and on. Join the list of successful introverts with thought and a little push against your natural comfort zone!

Diana Schneidman

I have freelanced and consulted since 1992 while also holding full-time corporate marketing positions during some of that period. Freelance writer specializing in the insurance industry. Marketing communications, market research reports and competitive intelligence for insurance, asset management and general business.

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