Four Ways to Turn Introversion into a Leadership Asset

Discover how introversion can be a huge asset, rather than a liability, for success in leadership

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.
A man sits back behind his computer

This article originally appeared here in The Good Men Project.

In her bestselling book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain explains how in the twentieth century, extroversion became a cultural value—one that resulted in the conflation of success and outgoingness, likability and talkativeness. Consequently, “introversion—along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness—is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology.” However, as she notes, pointing to figures like Sir Isaac Newton, Rosa Parks, Steven Spielberg, Dr. Seuss, and J. K. Rowling as examples of high-achieving introverts, “we make a grave mistake to embrace the Extrovert Ideal so unthinkingly. Some of our greatest ideas, art, and inventions…came from quiet and cerebral people who knew how to tune in to their inner worlds and the treasures to be found there.”  

The Extrovert Ideal has long shaped assumptions about what effective leadership looks like: good leaders, according to the prevailing wisdom, are loquacious, loud, and quick to act. But as Dr. Rick Goodman suggests in his new book The Solutions Oriented Leader: Your Comprehensive Guide to Achieve World-Class Results, introversion can be a huge asset, rather than a liability, for success in leadership. He writes: “One of the main things that holds introverts back, I think, is the perception that those who are quiet, even shy, cannot make commanding figures.” To break through misperceptions about introversion and tap into its power for leadership greatness, implement the following four strategies:

1. Remember that listening—not talking—is the mark of a really engaging leader.

Despite the assumption that the most effective leaders are the ones who talk the most, active listening is a far more important leadership skill. Indeed, Goodman notes that potentially the most significant challenge faced by today’s business leaders is positioning yourself “to lead your team not just through commands and dictations but through real engagement.” Meaningful engagement requires not listening to respond, but listening to understand, a communication skill at which introverts are particularly adept.

2. Remain calm during times of crisis.

Introverts, with their tendency to calmly, internally process situations before responding, can diffuse emotional situations by offering deliberate, rational, and well-thought-out solutions.

3. Force yourself out of your comfort zone.

Although you might prefer small-group situations to large speaking events and value deep, meaningful conversation over small talk, to be an effective leader you’ll want to push yourself a bit to engage with others in the ways that matter to them. Play to your strengths, making the most of those more intimate conversational settings, but also challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone in order to grow as a leader.

4. Allow yourself some quiet time.

Contrary to popular belief, introversion does not mean that you don’t like others or you’re antisocial; in fact, introverts can be quite social beings—in measured doses. What distinguishes introverts from extroverts is that being around others saps their energy rather than boosting it; as such, introverts require time alone to recharge their batteries. Creating space for this—whether by setting aside fifteen minutes in the morning to be by yourself and collect your thoughts for the day, taking a time-out during the workday to fill up your energy reserves, or using another recovery strategy—will help improve your impact as a leader.

Introversion can and should be a valued quality in business, and those who are introverted should not feel limited in their professional growth opportunities. The intentionality and thoughtfulness that are marks of introversion can make for truly transformative leaders.

    Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

    You might also like...

    By Lyubov Levitskaya/Shutterstock
    Work Smarter//

    5 Ways Introverts Silently Succeed at Work

    by Elvira Veksler


    by Susan McPherson

    Can Introverts have Executive Presence?

    by Joe Kwon

    Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

    Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

    Thrive Global
    People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.


    We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.