WOMENWORK

The power of introverts at work

Introverted leaders deliver thoughtful, innovative and people-centered perspectives.

In Summary

•Introverts tend to be good listeners.

•That means that they will often pick up on nuances or reactions that extroverts might miss out on.

Rachel Nderitu.
Rachel Nderitu.
Image: WOMENWORK

A recent global leadership research done by Myers Briggs reflected that 56.8% of people around the world prefer introversion. With such a high percentile of introverts, it is prudent for the local organizations to build a corporate culture that considers this. However, perhaps the missing link is a lack of understanding of the value that introverts bring to the workplace. What potential and growth opportunities are organizations missing out on, simply because they don’t quite understand introversion?

First and foremost, it’s important to have an accurate description of introversion. Susan Cain, author of the book Quiet defines introversion as a preference for environments that are not overstimulating. Environments where not much is going on. Contrary to extroverts who are wired to expend energy, introverts are built to conserve it. However, introversion shouldn’t be confused with shyness. As Susan further explains, shyness is the fear of negative judgment while introversion is a preference for quiet, minimally stimulating environments.

That said, in a world that is highly stimulated, it can be difficult for extroverts to see the value that introverts bring and introverts can feel the need to fit into what the world considers ideal. However, as with most things, complementing, rather than competing, is the winning formula for effective results in the workplace.

 In a highly complex business environment that’s constantly shifting, the leaders that will win will be those that can create collaborative spaces where people can be authentic and maximize their unique strengths, whether introverts or extroverts.

So, what power do introverts hold?

Deep thinking: Because of the way their brain pathways are tailored, introverts tend to need a longer time frame to think through things. While they can think on their feet, they are better able to give deeper insights when given time. As such, they’re more likely to give you a well-thought-out response to an issue or question. So, for leaders who are looking for actionable insights that are well thought out and practical, the introverts in your workplace can provide this. Just give them adequate time and space to ruminate.

Deep connection: Introverts tend to be good listeners. That means that they will often pick up on nuances or reactions that extroverts might miss out on. This is because, while extroverts want to make a quick connection and will often be thinking about their response will be as the other person is talking, introverts are more interested in understanding the person. In a business setting, this works well because most, if not all people, want to feel heard and seen. Active listening helps the introvert make deep connections, which then lead to a desire for further engagement, deeper insights, and meaningful relationships, which are all key to business growth and client retention.

Deep influence: Because of the meaningful connections that they make, introverts tend to have high influence. Daniel Goleman in his book Social Intelligence defines true influence as making a connection rather than getting attention. In most business circles, people who are loud, charismatic, and draw attention are considered to have greater influence. However, the world is now shifting with people looking at attributes such as empathy, connection, and vulnerability to build trust and confidence in a person. These traits are inherently present in introverts making them hold influence through quality, meaningful connections. Today, it’s not so much quantity but the quality of connections that influence decision-making.

Deep thinking, connection and influence; These are just some of the strengths that introverts bring to the workplace as there are a whole lot more. In the past, while introverts weren’t perceived to be good leaders, research has proved that introverts make great leaders. Backed by deep analysis, understanding, and connection, introverted leaders deliver thoughtful, innovative and people-centered perspectives that can position individuals and businesses for greater success. Aligned to this, in his book Good to Great, Jim Collins describes a type of leadership that helps a company thrive. Described as level 5 leaders, they display a powerful mixture of personal humility and indomitable will. They're incredibly ambitious, but their ambition is first and foremost for the cause, for the organization and its purpose, not themselves. While Level 5 leaders can come in many personality packages, they are often self-effacing, quiet, reserved, and even shy- an almost crisp description of introverted leadership. 

Introverts bring so much power to the workplace. Organizations that know this and put in measures to support introversion at work will experience personal and business growth at a higher level. And if you’re not convinced yet, perhaps knowing that Barack Obama is an introvert peaks your interest?

We spend so much time in the workplace so we must create spaces where we can show up authentically and leverage our strengths. As an introvert working in the communication space, Rachel Nderitu has come to realize how the right spaces and systems influence creativity, engagement, and business growth. On a day to day, she supports local and global brands through strategic communication strategies backed by data. This includes executive content creation, media relations, and stakeholder engagement.

Reach out to her for conversations around executive and brand communication, strategic content, and organizational growth. You can email her at [email protected] or connect with her on my social media handles: Instagram - @missrachelnderitu, Twitter - @RNderitu, Facebook - Rachel Nderitu