Saturday, February 8, 2014

5 tips any introvert can use to become a better leader.

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“The better you know yourself, the better your relationship with the rest of the world.”

-Toni Collette

Gandhi. Einstein. Buffet. Want to know what these three great minds have in common?

They’re all introverts.

As all introverts know, extroversion is a model that’s celebrated and holy in our society. It starts at a young age, too. Susan Cain, in her novel Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking says:

“If you’re an introvert, you also know that the bias against quiet can cause deep psychic pain. As a child you might have overheard your parents apologize for your shyness. Or at school you might have been prodded to come “out of your shell”—that noxious expression which fails to appreciate that some animals naturally carry shelter everywhere they go, and some humans are just the same.”

For sure Ms. Cain is onto something there, when you believe that some of the greatest leaders in the history of mankind have been introverts. Introverts are frequently misunderstood. And not all leaders should be pushy, loud, and charming. The world also needs leaders who show dignity; show signs of great listening skills; analyze complex situations before making a verdict; and display calm in times of argument.

Here are 5 tips any introvert can use to become a better leader.

1. Listen first, talk second.

This is something that comes naturally to introverts, and it’s an oft-underutilized ability in the business world. One solution for being viewed as a appreciated leader is to enthusiastically listen to your friends/clients/followers and then offer guidance and answers. According to Susan Cain, “There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.”

2. Step up during times of crisis.

Crises, both at home and at work, are an ingredient of life. It’s how you react to these moments of hardship that matters. So step up and be the “voice of reason” when awful things occur. Where others might see a crisis, introverted leaders see an opportunity.

3. Get out of your comfort zone.

As an introvert, you are probable to be more comfortable working alone than with people. You may not like to talk in front of groups. But the truth is, these are things that all great leaders need to do at times. So force yourself to contribute in “small talk” once in a while, even if you think it’s a waste of time. Take a public speaking class. Volunteer to take the lead on a new project at work that you may not know much about. Put your efforts on getting a little better at the things you’re not mainly great at each week.

4. Get into your comfort zone.

Introverts spend a lot of time in their own heads. And we require this time. It’s how we refresh, reflect, and come up with big ideas. So set time aside every day. Even if it’s 15 minutes. Find someplace quiet to sit down and just breathe. Let the feelings flow through your head like vapours. And when you’re done, write down any new ideas that came to mind, which leads to our next tip.

5. Write it down.

Introverts are likely to be better at writing than speaking. That’s why you must put your ideas down on paper before you speak about them. And here’s a tip for making your important points “stick”, whether it’s through a business meeting or after speaking at a conference: leave them with something. Create a simple 1- or 2-page document summing up your outstanding points, answering anticipated questions and objections, and prior to answer any additional questions.

So you’ll probably become aware of a tendency with most of these leadership tips. Most of them come naturally to introverts. So make use of your strengths. Admit, accept and improve upon your weaknesses. And always keep in mind this:

“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”



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