Many decision-makers in today's workforce are led to believe that extroverted leaders are more adept at driving businesses forward. With outgoing personalities, charisma and a visionary approach, they are often seen leading their teams with ease.
But introverted titans like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have proven that it's not just the extroverts who pave the way to success.
Susan Cain, best-selling author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking asserts that thirty to fifty percent of the workforce identify themselves as introverts.
Most of these individuals have zero expectation or desire to be in the limelight due to their more reserved and thoughtful nature. But when introverts hone in on the unique skills they inherently possess, they have the ability to become some of the best leaders.
To discuss how being an introvert can be advantageous in the business world, I received some sound wisdom from Jason Smylie, president of Capriotti's Sandwich Shop, an award-winning sandwich franchise. Under his introverted leadership, Capriotti's has grown to more than 100 restaurants with plans to open 500 shops by 2025.
Smylie shared with me some valuable tips on how to leverage your innate introverted skills to be a better leader:
1. Listen before speaking.
Introverts have the natural ability to step back and listen before acting. Their quieter, more thoughtful nature allows them to take everything in before crafting a well-thought-out solution backed by data and supporting details for nearly any situation.
"Whether it's resolving employee conflict or making an important business decision, hearing all perspectives, weighing out the pros and cons and predicting any potential outcomes of a situation give professionals the opportunity to make more tactical, strategic decisions," says Smylie.
2. Don't claim to be the smartest person in the room.
Introverts are more inclined to value the insights of their team members. They will typically take others' thoughts into consideration to reach a balanced solution, rather than single-handedly making a decision and expecting their team to follow through.
An introvert's greatest asset is the ability to cultivate a collaborative culture. "Most organizational structures generate big ideas at the top level and use a trickle-down method to execute," notes Smylie, adding, "However, the employees with their boots on the ground often have the best ideas, since they work on a more granular level day to day."
3. Connect with your employees
Because introverts are more inclined to listen to their employees, they have a unique opportunity to establish genuine relationships with them. When leaders get to know their staff, they are able to take a more personalized approach to motivate teams.
Not every employee is the same. "Everyone has their own quirks and preferences, so it is critical for a leader to understand these things to be able to tailor their leadership style to be able to effectively manage each individual and maximize productivity," notes Smylie
While everyone is different, most can agree that it's comforting to feel cared for and heard by your superiors. So, not only can establishing genuine relationships with your staff be better for business, but an individual approach to staff management also promotes positive corporate culture and job satisfaction.
4. Find an extroverted counterpart.
Introverts have their own set of unique skills that set them up for success in the leadership realm, but even the best companies can't thrive with strictly introverts as leaders. Rather, they excel when there's a delicate balance of personality types and diverse skillsets.
While introverts can employ a more collaborative, strategic approach to leadership, extroverts have their own assets that add value to any working environment. For example, many extroverts are also visionaries, coming up with creative ideas to build an innovative, forward-thinking organization.
"My best friend, Ashley Morris, our CEO, is a big-picture visionary, whereas my strengths lie in identifying and executing our best ideas. We've learned that a delicate balance of the two personality types fosters the most successful work environments," Smylie said.
Rather than laying low, leveraging skills that are unique to introverted personalities opens the door for employees to thrive in leadership roles. When different personality types work together in a cohesive, collaborative work environment, a business is more likely to succeed.