Friday, December 30, 2011

Can Introverts Lead?

Given that society seems to correlate outgoing personality with leadership ability, many introverts question in silence if they'll ever be considered for leadership positions, and if they were, would they even make good leaders.

I recall in a session I was conducting, couple of introverts asked me if they should just stick to technical work since they are introverts.  And another one of my blog readers who is an introvert recently wrote to me saying that it seems organizations consider extroverts more talented. 

As I see it, introverts can and do lead, and they can do it well.  In fact, in today's turbulent rapidly changing times, I believe introverts bring a sense of calmness which is so in need.  Furthermore, according to Jennifer Kahnweiler, author of The Introverted Leader, nearly 40% of leaders actually are introverted.  While this is good to know, as many of my blog readers are introverts, I wanted more information to share here as to why introverts too can and do make great leaders. 

With that said, I refer here to an article that was published in the June 2004 issue of Harvard Business Review.  Article entitled is "What Makes a Leader?" by Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More then IQ.  In the article, Goleman shares 5 key skills that enable leaders to maximize their own and their followers' performance.  He also states that when leaders posses these characteristics, they outperform those who don't, regardless of their personality type.

These 5 skills, along with how Goleman defines them, are:
  1. Self-awareness: Knowing one's emotions, strengths, weaknesses, drivers, values, and goals-and their impact on others. 
  2. Self-Regulation: Controlling or redirecting disruptive emotions and impulses.
  3. Motivation: Being driven to achieve for the sake of achievement.
  4. Empathy: Considering others' feelings, especially when making decisions.
  5. Social Skills: Managing relationships to move people in desired directions.
I believe you will agree that possessing these is certainly far less a matter of one's personality type and instead more to do with one's own development.  With that said, again, introverts can and do lead.  So for you introverts, take heart and stop doubting your leadership abilities.  If you possess skills such as those listed above, you too can lead.  And if you don't have these just yet, you can certainly work towards developing them. 

Having said the above, it's point number 5, social skills, where many introverts tend to be challenged.  In the coming year I will share some simple tips that are easy to apply and yet very effective in further developing social skills and through it building strong relationships.  So be keeping a look out for these upcoming posts.

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