Thanks in no small part to Susan Cain’s research and TED talks, it seems like introverts are having a moment. Anyone who identifies as an introvert is probably tired of being told by their more extroverted colleagues and peers to “just be more outgoing.”
Usually, these folks have your best interests at heart. They realize that if you are not seen and heard, this can limit your ability to connect. When you are around other people, your mutual affinity grows. When things are really clicking, you will be seen as a person with Charisma, which draws people (and opportunities) into your orbit. Which leads me to my next question,
Can Introverts have Charisma?
First, let’s clear up a common misconception. Though different psychologists may define introversion slightly differently, introversion does not equal being shy. Personally, I like Cain’s definition that introverts have a preference for quiet, more minimally stimulating environments.
The stereotype of a charismatic person being an extrovert is so prevalent it seems like a basic requirement. But, let’s stop and think for a second. Though most charismatic people you know may be extroverts, not every extrovert is charismatic. Some extroverts are better defined by the following words: loud-mouth, boor, attention-hog, or obnoxious.
You may actually know a lot of introverts with Charisma, you just don’t think of them that way because of our societal bias towards extroverts. Or, they may hide their introversion because the expectation is for them to be more extroverted.
The following people are identified as introverts and have done just fine in the Charisma department.
Keanu Reeves – Neo, John Wick, I can never remember, was he Bill or Ted?
Steve Jobs – You don’t build a trillion dollar company without some Charisma
Steven Spielberg – The man who brought us Indiana Jones, ET and velociraptors
Warren Buffett – The Oracle of Omaha, people regularly bid over $1 million dollars to have lunch with him
Mahatma Gandhi – Try to convince anyone you know that when they are getting hit not to hit back
Michael Jordan – Lots of championship rings, sneakers, a hit movie
Meryl Streep – Watch any movie she has made if the Academy Awards are not enough to convince you
So how is an introvert able to have Charisma? What makes the difference between those who make an impact and those who fade into the background and are forgotten?
Once we understand that Charisma is about sensing and ultimately delivering what is most needed from an emotional perspective, we can start to see how neither extroversion nor introversion defines Charisma.
The key for introverts is that while still operating within their preference for a minimally stimulating environment, they can emotionally connect with others and deliver what that other person needs. For example, a struggling company can be just as energized by a thoughtful leader with an ability to listen and quietly instill confidence as a brash, macho leader who promises to take no prisoners. Both leaders can give their employees the reassurance and comfort they need to continue to believe in the future of the company and bring their best to work.
The challenge for introverts is they have to be among people to connect to them. This doesn’t mean they have to be around people all the time and this doesn’t mean they shouldn’t take the time they need to recharge. What helps is to understand that Charisma happens in the space between people.
My advice to myself as a self-professed introvert and to my fellow introverted brothers and sisters is to make the most of the time you are around people. Connect and nourish each other emotionally. Then, take the time you need to recharge. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Remember, you have the power to change your life — one connection at a time.
This article was adapted from the new leadership book, Unlock Your Charisma: Feel like a Star. Listen to the audiobook on Audible, or read it on Kindle or Apple Books, Find it, along with other books from the Unlock Your Leadership series on Amazon.
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