If I were an animal, I think I’d be a turtle. Why? Because they can be awkward and yet, still comfortable in their own shell. To which I would add that turtles are probably quite introverted. Perhaps, I’m projecting too much of myself onto the Turtle species, but they’re also really cute. Anyways, I bring up my favourite introverted animal because I recently attended the workshop, Introverted Leadership, and since then I’ve been thinking about my own introversion and how I harness it in my own leadership.
Here’s what I’m learning about being an Introverted Leader:
A leader is a leader no matter how quiet
There are many characteristics that I appreciate in a leader such as empathy, resilience, accountability, inclusion and communication. And these characteristics aren’t limited to an extrovert or introvert, they can be developed in anyone. For example, take communication, extroverts may be better at speaking/presenting, while introverts may be better at listening, but both can work together to find a nice balance to meet the two sides of communication.
Energy management is the new time management
During the workshop we learned about Energy Management by reflecting on how tasks affect our energy and how they might affect different areas such as body, emotion, mind and spirit. For example, I find posting to social media to be mentally and emotionally draining for me, while spending time with loved ones, or one-on-one interactions to be energizing. This awareness helps me to better adjust how I focus my energy. So now, I try to limit my social media time, and create more time for being with others.
Empower the soft spoken
As a soft speaker myself, there are some strategies that I’ve learned to be more present in conversations or group interactions. Often times, I prefer to listen intently during group conversations and take my time to gather my thoughts, so it can be quite frustrating when others may assume that I’m simply not interested in what’s going on. But I just prefer to listen and observe, before commenting.
Since I may not speak much in a conversation, I try my best to make use of visual cues and assert my physical presence. So I always make sure to look at the person who’s speaking, make eye contact, throw in a head nod sometimes, and to use open body language (have to remind myself not to fold my arms, no matter how much my body wants to). This way, I can use my presence to show that I’m listening.
And for when I do want to share my ideas, I’ve also found support from other leaders. Here’s some strategies that other leaders have used that have helped me:
- Sharing information beforehand, which helps me to prepare
- Open invitations to meet one-on-one before or after group meetings
- Calling me in by asking me what I think, instead of calling me out on not verbally contributing
- Creating a safe space where it’s encouraged to share ideas but there’s no pressure to
- Creating alternative ways to participate (such as writing)
Bring the inside out
Just like turtles, I’m practicing how to be more comfortable in my shell and learning how to bring what’s inside, out a little more. Such as by sharing my ideas in ways that are sometimes uncomfortable, like speaking them out loud; and sometimes comfortable, like writing it down; and sometimes in-between, like publishing a blog. As I learn how to share my ideas, I’m discovering the importance of sharing them and the courage it can take to do so. And I’m grateful for every little bit of confidence that I gain from it.
What helps you lead as an introvert/extrovert/ambivert?