If you are an extrovert, you have an advantage in most Western societies. The stereotype of a successful leader is dominated by extroverted characteristics. As an extrovert, you are comfortable with verbal communication and often dominate a conversation. You like to engage in debate and discussion. You thrive as the center of attention, and your energy builds within these social settings. Your social and professional networks are extensive, and you tend to embrace risk-taking opportunities. Overall, because of your extroverted nature, you are accurately or presumptively seen as a leader.
If you are not in this category of individual, it is likely your actions are often misconstrued because you are compared to your extroverted counterparts. Your quietness might be seen as meekness. Your tendency to reflect on problems to determine a solution is interpreted as indecision. Your preference to work alone is perceived as aloofness. Meanwhile, you might be managing feelings of imposter syndrome because your approach is different from that of many around you.
But as we know from diversity education and training within our businesses and schools, having diversification in our work teams provides perspective and variations in thinking. We acknowledge this when it comes to culture, race, age, gender and sex, but little discussion occurs regarding the benefits introverts offer to a society dominated by extroverted ideals. Consider the valuable characteristics introverts bring to the table.
Because of their preference for independent work, introverts won’t tend to need excessive supervision to get a task done. They are used to relying on themselves and their skills to accomplish a goal. Very often, they will work hard to figure out a solution rather than, or before, going to someone to talk it out.
Introverts aren’t going to talk for the sake of talking. They will take in information and process it before offering a response. This allows them extra time to analyze a problem or project and potentially see roadblocks or alternate options before venturing down a quickly determined path.
3. Effective social scientists
Incorporated into their reflectiveness, introverts use their quiet natures to listen and observe the variables within a situation. Because they are not vying for attention and looking for the next opportunity to talk, introverts pay attention to verbal and nonverbal communication and can use this information as part of their reflection.
Introverts don’t like small talk and forced conversations. When they choose to interact with others, it is typically at a more meaningful level than superficial social conversations. They will take time to explore a topic through one-on-one or small-group conversation, integrating their strength in listening to acknowledge others’ perspectives.
Their strengths of reflection and observation also enable introverts to be more aware of their own reaction and feelings. They aren’t distracted by needing to integrate themselves into social situations and are comfortable being alone with their thoughts. While they won’t likely share their feelings in large group settings, it is in the connections they make with individuals that they will comfortably express themselves.
Introverts grew up in a world that promoted and applauded extroverted characteristics. They were the ones teased or overlooked for a promotion or chosen last in PE class. Introverts learn to live in a world not geared for them and survive. They develop strategies and coping mechanisms, which allow them to function in the workforce, rarely needing constant reassurance or praise to keep them motivated.
Being an extrovert or an introvert is not better than the other. As a team member or a team leader, recognizing the strengths in both is the key variable for success. Celebrating and encouraging what introverts bring to the table benefits the organization, team and individuals who learn they don’t have to fit an extroverted mold in order to contribute. Overall, a heterogeneous mix of both styles can result in more creativity, problem solving and productivity.