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Introverted Leaders

Charlotte Ashlock Posted by Charlotte Ashlock, Executive Editor, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.

Charlotte Ashlock is a crazy idealist trying to make the world a better place! 

Introverted Leaders

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Who is an introverted leader?

A leader who works best while remaining in the background, allowing her/his proactive team members brainstorm and think of innovative ideas and efficient plans of action, is an introverted leader. Such a leader is characterised by listening more and talking less. Her/his charisma lies in her/his silence, thoughtful responses and focused conversations. Recent research suggests that the business community and the political world today are in need of introverted leaders more than they are of the extroverted kind.

Why are introverted leaders gaining popularity?

Cultures like the United States have always admired and hero-worshipped charismatic leaders, especially in politics and business. This is because the popular, guns-blazing, charismatic, one-man army leader is a perfect representative of the individualistic society. The reputation of quiet, introverted leaders has always remained underappreciated, despite the changing face of the individualistic culture. Recent research has shown, however, that the present workplace is probably more suited to quiet, introverted but strong leaders. Emotional intelligence is the forte of introverted leaders. It is here that extroverted leaders often fail, because the latter often have a very different kind of social skills, the type that may not help an already energized team. Introverted leaders, on the other hand, are known for their guarded social skiils, an ability that makes good leaders.

Introverted leaders and team members

The most effective leader is one who compliments her/his team, not just leads the herd. An extroverted leader is talkative, dominant and assertive. S/he is the center of attention. Such a leader needs a team that lacks initiative. Her/his skills as a leader become apparent when s/he is able to make a team work hard and achieve the desired goals. An extroverted leader needs a team that needs to be led. An introverted leader, on the other hand, is most effective when s/he has a pro-active team, one that takes initiative to reach the set goals. An introverted leader manages the emotional intelligence of such a team such that her/his team performs at its maximum level of efficiency. Introverted leaders are ready to listen to the team members, an act that team members admire in their leaders. Extroverted leaders may not pay too much attention to what their team members say, because they are the ones who do all the talking, most of the time and that too, extremely well.

Introverted leaders-the world is all yours

One does not have to become someone else to be a leader. A strong, quiet introvert with social skills to steer the team, is seen as a better leader than a gregarious one. The introverted leader is more powerful in times like ours, when reticence, reflection and respect for others matter more than bravado and assertiveness.

Some Books on Introversion:

The Introverted Leader

In the type A business culture of the United States, introverts are often mistaken to be reluctant; they are misunderstood and often overlooked. They are also seen as arrogant and incapable. Dr. Kahnweiler writes about the success stories of such leaders and lays down the foundations for introverted leaders to achieve success. She delineates a four-point strategy to etch out a successful introverted leader. She assures introverts that the 4 P’s-- preparation, presence, pushing and practice-- will make them wonderful and respected leaders. Since introverts are usually quiet and avoid anxiety-producing situations, preparation will help them manage such situations better. She further asks the introvert to focus entirely on the activity. Then, she gently asks such men and women to muster courage to go beyond their comfort zones and finally, she summons them to practice their speeches, their discussions, their meetings over and over again to feel comfortable on the designated time and date.

Not only do readers feel they are in control after reading the four P’s, but they are also given further demonstrations in fields such as public speaking, participating in meetings and the like. The Introverted Leader does not ask introverts to change; the book shows how their strengths can be better utilized in the present workplace.

Networking for People Who Hate Networking

The very title of the book tells you it is a book worth reading. Devora Zack target readers include introverts and those under-connected and overwhelmed by the knotty world of networking. She shows them ways to network without becoming someone else.

If you belong to the group of people who would much rather stay at home staring at the bare walls than -network’ with strangers, Zack assures you that there is another way to get on in life. This book shatters popular notions about people who hate networking. It is assumed that such people are shy or they dislike other human beings. Far from that. These people reflect on what they hear and think before they talk. They need to be alone to recharge. To them, networking is all about small talk and constant talk. So, they choose to stay away.

Zack shows her readers that networking on one’s own terms is always beneficial to the individual. The traits that make people networking-averse can be harnessed to make them network, but slowly and on their own terms.

According to Zack, human beings are social animals. It is against their natural temperament not to network, but the rules differ with people. One should be mindful of that and -network’ accordingly.


Susan Cain’s Quiet is like a meteor on a starless night sky. While there are amazing books on introverted leaders and how the innate strengths of introverts can be harnessed for maximum gain in the business world, Quiet goes a step further. It tells us how much we lose when we undervalue introverts.

Quiet speaks to all of us while mapping the rise of the Extrovert Ideal in the twentieth century. Cain speaks to Asian-American students who feel alienated in the free-to-speak-anything atmosphere of the American education system. She questions the American business and corporate culture wherein forced collaboration often drowns the ideas of the introvert. This process bars innovation and overlooks the potential of the introverts.

Quiet introduces the readers to successful introverts - from public speakers who recharge in solitude after speeches to a phenomenally successful salesman whose source of success lies in tapping into the power of questions.

Not only does she talk of introverts at work, but she also talks of child-parent and inter-spouse relationships that often fall on two widely separated points on the introvert-extrovert spectrum. Speaking to thousands, Cain almost pleads with her readers to think hard and reflect. Her tone is clear though. She does not speak against team work or collaboration. She asks for collaboration that readily engages an introvert into the conversation. To cite an example, Cain prefers casual cafe--style interaction and exchange of ideas at a workplace, instead of closed-door conference room meetings. The latter shuts off an introvert completely, thus making the organization lose out on new ideas.

Quiet is a book that will change the way the world views introverts. An underlying current all through the book seems to focus on the drawbacks of the western society’s views of power and authority. It is a must-read for extroverts and introverts!

The Introvert Advantage: How To Thrive in an Extrovert World

Marti Olsen Laney’s book helps boost an introvert’s confidence while teaching strategies to successfully live in a world dominated by extroverts. Dispelling many myths about introverts, such as being antisocial, shy or aloof, this book tells its readers what introverts really stand for. Introverts are hardwired from birth to focus inward so much so that telephone calls, casual hangouts and meetings can easily become overwhelming.

Laney ensures, in her book, that introverts have nothing to feel bad about themselves. She urges them to recognize their strengths that can easily lead them to success. Introverts are known to be excellent at analytical skills, in thinking out of the box, and at concentration. After all, not all roads to success are identical. This book provides tools to introverts to deal with personal and professional relationships as well.

The book comes to a close with advice on not just surviving the extrovert world, but also on thriving in a world that seems to work differently. Laney encourages the introverts to show the extroverted world that their ways of thinking can also be winners. It also tells introverts how to become an extrovert temporarily, depending on the task at hand.