Being an introvert doesn’t mean you’re shy, reticent, or reclusive; descriptions used by most dictionaries. Introverts are people who prefer calm, quiet environments. They prefer deep 1:1 conversations, rather than gathering in groups, and they usually enjoy alone time to recharge after social engagements. Introverts are perfectly normal and account for 30-50% of the population.
I’ve always enjoyed my alone time and found large gatherings to be exhausting. I rarely spoke first in meetings or rushed to make decisions, preferring to observe and do my research. So, early in my career, I wasn’t surprised to learn that I was an introvert. In fact, knowing this is just how I’m wired gave me permission to be who I am and honor the gifts I bring to the team.
It wasn’t until I entered the corporate environment that I realized being an introvert could have a negative impact on my career. It turns out that the business world (in the US, at least) was built by extroverts for extroverts. And their standard for leadership is bold, energetic, and outgoing.
Studies show that the majority of corporate executives in the US think introverts don’t make good leaders. Our quiet, observant, introspective behavior is seen as a detriment to success. They consider us to be aloof, withdrawn, unfriendly and unsociable.
Secret Superpowers of Introverts -
These are just a few of the strengths which introverts bring to their teams. They are also the core skills which executives seek in leaders. So why aren’t we sought out and promoted?
If you’re like most of the introverts I work with, you’ve got skills, talent, and experience, but you don’t go around bragging. You consistently contribute to the organization, but you’re not getting recognized or rewarded like your colleagues. You may be the quietest person on the team, but that doesn’t mean you’re not engaged or working hard.
You do your homework, bringing great ideas to meetings, but your boss often doesn’t see or hear you. You have ambition, but your career has been stalled. And, when you are promoted, you find it exhausting, trying to fit in with the new team and expectations.
During my corporate career, I frequently bumped into assumptions and expectations about quiet leaders. I found ways around and through these barriers, while staying true to myself and achieving success on my own terms.
Our ability to listen deeply, develop meaningful connections, research, and problem-solve in the toughest circumstances are just a few of the many characteristics of introverts which help us excel.
(excerpted from Step Up and Stand Out: 20 Tips for Aspiring Introverted Leaders)
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