It is a misconception that all introverts are shy. The two are different -- an important distinction to understand when you're considering a leadership position.
The term "introverted" is often used interchangeably with "shy." This is misleading. Introversion itself is not shyness. Shyness brings with it feelings of nervousness and anxiety. Although an introvert may be shy, it actually means that person is energized by being alone, and is drained by being around other people.
I'm an introvert; my husband is an extrovert. He literally can't go long without being around a lot of people. It is exactly like a battery charge for him. I, on the other hand, literally get uneasy if I don't have a period of solitude in every day.
I get frustrated by the faulty definition of introvert. I think it subconsciously makes introverts feel like they could never be leaders because they don't have the people skills needed. So it was with great glee that I ran across a piece on Forbes.com that put this topic in proper perspective and actually made a case for why introverts make the best leaders. (Little known fact: Introverts make up about 60% of the gifted population but only about 25-40% of the general population.)
My hat's off to the author of the piece, Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, for outlining the characteristics of introverts that make them great leaders:
- They think first, talk later (In other words, they think before they speak.)
- They focus on depth. They are drawn to meaningful conversations, not superficial chitchat, and they know how to ask great questions and really listen to the answers.
- They exude calm. In times of crisis, they project a reassuring, calm confidence
- They prefer writing to talking. This comfort with the written word often helps them better articulate their positions and document their actions.
- They embrace solitude. The need to get away from people and recharge actually fuels their thinking, creativity and decision-making and, when the pressure is on, helps them be responsive, not reactive.
If you're an introvert, do yourself a favor and read the original piece.