No one quite has the immunity to change that an introvert has.
Not to insult an entire personality type (since I'm an introvert myself), but we don't like new situations, we have a hard time meeting new people, and we don't like change. We prefer predictable situations... and challenges. When it comes to leadership, we self-analyze constantly but don't embrace new ideas because, you know, that might lead to some awkwardness.
That tends to stifle us as leaders. In that role, you have to be willing to change and adjust. When you fail to embrace change, you become stagnant in your role and people don't want to follow you. You become the curmudgeon who doesn't react to trends. You demonstrate a lack of flexibility and a closed mind to new ideas in the workplace. And, like me, you could ultimately fail in your role as your team grows. (It's one of the reasons I'm a writer today, to be perfectly frank.)
To find out more about how this works and to try to change some of my techniques, I've had an ongoing discussion with Deborah Ancona, who teaches at MIT Sloan Executive Education on immunity to change. I've started applying some of the tips she's given me and provided a few of them here. Since I'm not in a leadership role--I prefer being an influencer of leaders--I decided to apply some of these leadership ideas at a conference recently where it was important to be a thought leader.
1. Bring other people into the process.
We all could use a hand. But most introverts tend to fly solo. It's a self-perpetuating curse. Because we don't like to include others, we feel more and more isolated, and then we don't change because we don't have anyone pointing out our weaknesses.
To address this, I started sharing my conversations and notes with other people at the conference. It was amazing. They added to the note or the idea. They made it far greater than the original idea that was mine and mine only (ahem). And there was a side benefit. Including others in my idea process led to those people connecting with me more--we all like to be included in a new idea.
Introverts need help understanding new situations, processing new information, and adjusting to changing circumstances. When we include others, we get the help we need. The main tip here is: Find people to help you change.
2. Remember to recharge.
Leadership is an act of exertion. It uses a ton of energy and makes you tired, especially since you are not energized by groups of people. You need downtime, but it's often hard to do that when you are leading. (By the way, Dr. Tara Swart is an executive coach at MIT Sloan Executive Education and she also mentioned that introverts will find leadership to be more challenging than extroverts do, and this is one of the big reasons why--we just get too tired to do the job at times.)
Ancona reminded me this is not a race. In order to be a thought leader at the conference, I had to schedule downtime. Full disclosure: I ended up abandoning that plan because I felt I wasn't being productive, but it was a mistake. Productivity suffers when we don't take breaks, so I wasn't at my best on the days when I skipped them.
As introverted leaders, we have to be mindful of how much we are taking in and how much we are giving away. If we give away too much, we suffer. We won't perform at a high enough level. Extroverts get pumped up by the chaotic nature of leadership.
3. Use your best skills to address your weaknesses.
One of my lessons had to do with using my stronger skills to address my weaknesses. Like most introverts, I have a hard time meeting new people. I don't feel comfortable acting loud or obnoxious, acting goofy, or doing other things to make a quick connection. I am really good at observing situations. So, in new situations, I'll start making observations as a way to lighten the mood or engage the person I've just met. I'm also really good at coming up with ideas. So, I've decided to start sharing them more with people, especially in groups.
This act of using your best skills to address weaknesses is quite brilliant. It works because you rely on the skills you do have to improve in your areas of struggle, giving you the power to change. Too often, we try to change by using our weaker skills. As an introvert, we try to act loud in new settings, which comes across as not being genuine. We fail because we use a weak skill. Then, we do it again and again.