Can introverts make successful managers? We all know what the stereotype CEO looks like. Tall, charismatic, impressive, and evoking authority. It’s easy for extroverts.That’s the stereotype. Reality is a little different. A quick scan of the top CEOs in the US shows a surprising number of introverts in executive positions. Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Bill Gates. Warren Buffett among others.
How Introverts can make successful managers?
Jim Collins, in Good to Great, found that the most successful companies rarely had so-called celebrity CEOs. Charisma was a handicap, he concluded.
One definition of an introverts is someone who gets energized when alone and drained when in crowds. That’s true for me. Even with close friends at parties I often feel the need to step out for ten minutes and recharge the batteries. Extroverts get a buzz being around others.
So, how can you translate this to business.
- Don’t beat yourself up – As others have demonstrated, you don’t need to be different. It’s about adapting your style and playing to your strengths.
- Don’t belittle your efforts – Many introverts suffer from low self-esteem as society seems to value more extroverted, charismatic leaders. It’s hard to find a TV show where the leading role is an introvert, unless they’re the geek, i.e. feeding the cliche image of introverts as oddballs.
- Don’t run yourself down at meetings; others will do that for you. Value your opinion and share it.
- Find a wing man – If parties are really painful for you, link up with someone who’ll help break the ice. Jovial types are very good in this respect. Make sure to return the favor.
- Play to your strengths – Instead of trying to be more like others, identify what others value in you and develop this. For example, many introverts excel at deep, critical thinking. Use this talent to highlight opportunities and demonstrate ways that company can succeed.
- Find a Mentor – In some ways this may be more difficult for women than men as they are fewer female CEOs to model oneself on. Finding a role model gives one a framework to develop oneself.
What’s important here is not that introverts can succeed (as Gates et al have demonstrated they can) but that reserved types don’t under-estimate their own abilities and avoid aiming for leadership roles. Do you know a successful introverted manager? What did she do different? What advice would you give to other introverts?