Introversion and Leadership

Jasmine Chou (’23) explores the particular and often undervalued strengths introverts have as leaders. “…introverts are good listeners and tend to be better at observing everything that goes on around them. Because of this, they will be willing to hear everyone out and then later be able to take all input from what they see and hear and make a decision based more on everyone’s ideas, rather than just their own opinion.”

In most cases when people think of what it means to be a leader, they will link their definition of leadership with words that are synonymous with being an extrovert: outgoing, outspoken, social, full of energy and life, loud, always talking to people and making connections with everyone. But while this stereotype is commonly true, as the extroverts tend to quickly take initiative more easily than the introverts, it does not mean that introverts are unable to lead. According to an article from CNBC quoting bestselling author and popular TED speaker Susan Cain, there are three qualities introverts possess that make them great leaders. These three traits are: being more conservative about risk taking, more creative, and better at problem solving. 

Although risk-taking is a great thing to see in a leader, as people love seeing a leader who takes action, being conservative in making decisions can be a better approach. Introverts will think more about the pros and cons of a decision rather than jumping to a conclusion so quickly. In this way, the decisions they make are more thoroughly thought out, more sensible and reasonable, and potentially may cause less harmful effects to themselves or those affected by the decision. A good leader does not need to make such hasty decisions to gain the respect of their followers. Rather, making a slow but smart decision may fare better for everyone in the long run. Another point to make is that introverts are good listeners and tend to be better at observing everything that goes on around them. Because of this, they will be willing to hear everyone out and then later be able to take all input from what they see and hear and make a decision based more on everyone’s ideas, rather than just their own opinion. 

Having high levels of creativity is another trait of introverted people. Since introverts prefer to be alone rather than in crowds, they have a lot of time to themselves to think and nurture their creative side. Solitude, Cain says, can be a “real catalyst to creativity.” Being alone can help introverts access their creativity without distraction or influence from the others’ ideas.  Thus, the ideas and solutions that introverts come up with may be better overall because they are distinct, well-planned, and may give a different perspective that many do not think of at first. 

The reserved decision-making style and creativity also tie in to introverts being more effective problem solvers. It is often difficult for introverts to process information quickly, so they are able to take time to reflect more and gain more insight on the problem at hand. When given a problem, introverts like to weigh each of the pros and cons and consider all solutions to guarantee that they are making the right decision with the best possible outcome. 

Many of these traits are not often thought to be strengths in leadership. They are more often associated with followers, being able to carry out procedures and actions rather than initiate them. There are many famous introverts who went on to do great things. Believe it or not, billionaire Bill Gates, who co-founded Microsoft, is an introvert. But, he is regarded as a transformational leader in the eyes of society. From his invention of an easy operating system to his donations to charities, he has made a huge impact on American society. But, all weaknesses may be turned into strengths and anyone can do anything they put their mind to. If you have a vision, go for it and do not shy away from it, as it could very well be a turning point in history.