My favorite description of introvert behavior still comes from a blog entitled, “The Care and Feeding of Introverts,” in which the writer describes extroverts’ misconceptions about said behavior. For example:
“Don’t take it personally, when we go hedgehog. It’s not you, it’s us. We’re not mad, we still love you, we just need some time alone to recharge. Depending on the circumstances, recharging can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 months.”
Finally, someone who understands me!
Given that 50-74% of the world is extroverted and nearly 60% of leaders are extroverts, us introverts can have a challenging time, both at home and at work. An example: A recent milestone birthday. I decided not to do anything spectacular to commemorate the event. My sister (extrovert) couldn’t imagine why I would react this way. She wanted to gather a bunch of my friends and have a slumber party at a local hotel. This would’ve meant that I’d be the center of attention for most of the night and sleeping in the same room with a bunch of people… Two things I really don’t enjoy. I tried to explain that her idea was a great plan for HER milestone birthday celebration – not mine. It still didn’t compute.
INTROVERTS: MAKING IT WORK AT WORK
I am very fortunate, however, that I rarely have any challenges with being an introvert at work, even in a leadership role. Bright Horizons has a culture where great thought goes into matching employee skills and work style with the right position to support success.
Given my personality and approach to life, I would not be successful in a sales position — although I can be very persuasive. I am, however, thriving in my leadership role, given the team of people I lead, the type of work we complete, and the supervisor I report to who “gets me” and my leadership style.
This dynamic connects with the concept of being able to bring my whole self to work. I don’t have to spend enormous amounts of emotional energy trying to be something I’m not, just to be successful. I spend the energy actually doing the work! I am most fortunate, indeed, given that some introverts I know are really struggling to find such a work environment.
FIVE TIPS FOR INTROVERTED LEADERS
So, I have some advice if you find yourself working with, supervising, or reporting to an introvert.
- Quiet does not equal lack of interest, care, or passion. We just exhibit those things in different ways.
- We are usually stronger than we appear. Convictions often run very deep and will be communicated at the right time.
- If you present an issue to be solved, be prepared to give the introvert time for research and reflection. Our best decisions come after careful consideration.
- Even though we are not extroverts, we are not afraid to give presentations and speak in front of groups, particularly if we are passionate about the topic and/or know the material well.
- We do like to have fun and laugh but that rarely includes large groups with lots of noise. Therefore, a work-related retreat in Vegas, for example, would not be our idea of productive or even remotely enjoyable.
I am sure there are other pieces of advice introverted leaders would add to my list. I’d love to hear them!