Last week I had the pleasure of coaching a group of young, rising stars at one of Chicago’s largest companies as part of the Magnetic Leadership Program. It’s work I adore and wish I could do more of because I know it makes a difference and provides valuable insight for high-potential leaders to accelerate their success.
I was honored to have the opportunity to coach a gentleman who is clearly an introvert and at the relative beginnings of a career that promises to be stellar. He told me he’s being encouraged by his management to “change” in order to be more successful, which is feedback I suspect many young introverts receive. If you’re a long-time reader of this Visionary Leadership blog you probably know what my response was: “That’s the last thing you need to do. You need to be true to yourself in order to be an authentic leader.”
Change vs. Strategies for Success
Introverts absolutely do not need to change who they are or act like an extrovert in order to be successful. At the same time, there comes a point in our careers where we absolutely do need strategies that will help boost us up the ladder rungs. As I wrote in The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership,
“While both introverted and extraverted leaders excel at leadership and in business, it’s my experience that introverts have a more difficult time moving up the ladder to reach the executive level in the real world, for a variety of reasons.
These reasons include, but are not limited to, being less comfortable seeking the visibility required to be recognized within a company, a lack of mentoring on how to network effectively in a way that is comfortable for introverts, the fact that introverts tend to move to action less quickly than their extraverted counterparts, and that they may be less likely to ask for new opportunities and increased responsibilities because of their more reserved nature.
I believe it’s also because they simply have a more difficult time, particularly during the formative part their career and in job interviews, putting themselves out there in a way that gets them noticed and boosts them up the ladder rungs.”
Getting Noticed is Critical
That last sentence is critical for young, introverted leaders, especially high achievers who have been very successful based on the results they’ve driven early in their career. We want to believe that what’s made us successful in the past will continue to make us successful in the future.
Here’s the important truth: As you look to move up the ladder of an organization, it’s not enough to get results and it’s not realistic to think you’ll only be evaluated on your results. Instead, you’ll be evaluated on intangibles like confidence, assertiveness, poise, and presence, as well as more tangible traits like resourcefulness, demonstrating company values, and articulation. And all of this is on top of more familiar leadership skills including creating and communicating a clear vision and aligning your team and strategies to bring this vision to life.
But the only way you’ll have the opportunity to be evaluated is if:
1. You make sure you become fully visible in the organization
2. You ensure your ideas become visible in the organization
And this is where it becomes more challenging for introverts. Introverts need strategies that enable them to “move along the scale” toward extroversion, as necessary, to become effective, inspiring leaders. But they can do this in ways that are comfortable for them as introverts, with the right guidance and support from upper management. And believe me when I say when introverts do share their ideas and insights in the world of business and leadership, people listen.
So my introverted colleagues, I plead with you not to listen to anyone – boss, coach, colleague, family member, or friend – who asks you to change who you are. Honor your introversion – it’s a gift laden with many unique and valuable strengths!
But accept the responsibility to learn strategies that will enable you to take the power in your ideas, and your inner self, and make that power visible and invaluable to your organization!
Are you an introvert looking to use your introversion to your advantage in business & leadership or an extrovert interested in leading introverts more effectively? I wrote this eBook for you…
“The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership” eBook is NOW Available! Now an Amazon Best Seller & Hot New Release, Featured on Huffington Post, and the inspiration behind my Harvard Business Review article!
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Being an introvert is truly an advantage in business and leadership if you know how to leverage it, and if you remain true to yourself.