When you’re seeking team members to nurture, mentor, and promote, overlooking introverts can cost you some promising leaders.
While more people are introverted than extroverted, introverts represent only 39% of top executives and senior leaders in the U.S. This trend is even more pronounced in other countries. For instance, only 28% of UK leaders are introverts; and 9 out of 10 workers there say they feel pressure to act more extroverted. However, just because someone is introverted doesn’t mean that person can’t be a great leader or, at least, a leading team player.
To make the most of the introverts on your teams:
- Give them time to prepare for meetings and presentations. Set expectations in advance, and try to avoid surprises. Introverts aren’t comfortable thinking on the fly or improvising. They prefer to plan; and they like to know what to expect.
- Expect measured brainstorming. You aren’t likely to get rapid-fire ideas from introverts in brainstorming sessions. They usually will only speak up after evaluating and eliminating ideas on their own.
- Listen to their suggestions. When introverts offer an idea, it’s likely something they have thought about and researched. By the time they’re ready to share something, they don’t take it lightly. Be careful not to interrupt or dismiss them. If you do, you may not hear from them again.
- Use various platforms to communicate important messages. Extroverts may thrive on the buzz of activity and sensory stimulation, but introverts generally prefer written communications to on-the-fly meetings or hallway summits.
- Allow for downtime. Introverts often need time alone to recharge, strategize, and process information. Try to give them time to themselves, especially after meetings, conference calls, and similar events.
Introverts may be less outspoken and animated than their extroverted colleagues, but they also have many qualities that make for great leaders. Specifically, introverts are:
- Good listeners
- Laser focused
- Easy to please
- Super observant
- Good at studying
- Committed to their goals
- In touch with their feelings
Don’t overlook the contributions of introverts or their leadership potential. Instead, engage these individuals in ways that are comfortable for them and take advantage of their input and innovative ideas. Teach them to apply their unique skills and knowledge to become leaders.