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Listen Up! (Lead Like An Introvert)

Have you connected with your introverted side recently?

In our discussions with senior leaders over the last two months, we continue to hear about approaches to coronavirus-related crisis management.

In both business and individual situations, it is clear that leadership faces current challenges (how do we adjust right now and still keep going?) as well as longer-term complexity driven by a range of potential scenarios and business futures.

Simultaneously, radical new working situations are evolving across the spectrum of team engagement, inspiration and productivity.

Many leaders feel urgency at every point, and that “act now, act fast” must be the best course.

Is it?

Listen and lead.

A recent Fast Company article makes an interesting observation on drive-to-action as an instinctive response to uncertainty:

“In crises, many leaders listen less because they believe immediate action is required. Usually, they are acting from a mindset that using techniques associated with extroversion is the only way to get ahead.”

This article, Why introvert leaders excel during a crisis, suggests that an unrestrained “take charge” style – particularly in a virtual, distanced workplace – can frustrate the teams who are responsible for implementing a decision and navigating a way forward.

Leveraging introverted tendencies and traits, on the other hand, can be more inclusive and more effective.

The author’s point, though, is not that one style is better than another.

Finding balance is the key. Underpinning extroverted intensity with thoughtful introverted strengths can be a recipe for both inspiration and results.

Ask questions.

As a self-test on this point, think about how you approach your team meetings and the ways you may have shifted to manage your current virtual workplace.

Many leaders will tend to focus on preparing the answers they think they will have to provide to shape a team direction, as opposed to the questions that will draw answers and expertise from others.

An introvert’s leadership strength will reverse this thinking: adopt a questions-first philosophy, focus on asking ‘what” and “how”, and aim to inspire teams to think big to solve problems collectively.

Embrace silence.

Article author Krister Ungerböck, a leadership communication expert, highlights aspects of verbal style in relation to team dynamics.

What aspects of verbal style can help manage virtual and distanced interaction?

Introverts can emphasize natural leadership strength through active listening, thoughtful reflection and incisive commentary – but need to step far enough into the spotlight to establish solid presence.

Extroverts can practise being comfortable with silence. Don’t jump in with quick impressions. Quite literally, count to five before speaking to see if someone else adds ideas first.

The key takeaways for all? Keep it concise. Tell yourself the fewer words, the better. Say very little, and prioritize clarity over volume.

It’s a path to collaborative efficiency.

It’s also an engaged leader’s path to building trust in the face of uncertainty.

Find your introvert

From our standpoint as leadership coaches, the primary question is not about weighing the merits of one style against another.

It’s more a matter of knowing where you’re starting from. Do you already have introvert-style strengths, but need to evolve these to lead successfully in a virtual world? Do you need to find and hone your reflective side to complement your strong extroverted presence?

While it can be incredibly difficult to “stand outside yourself” in order to identify (and shift) the ways you interact as a leader, capturing these attributes is a natural strength for a coaching partner attuned to your personal goals.

Are you looking to evolve your own style as you manage crises? Give us a call with a quick run through your top-of-mind action list. Or, reflect quietly and send us your focused insight and perspective.

Either way, we can help you find a balance.

Jill Roussy and Wendy Shaw are coaches, consultants, mentors and facilitators with extensive experience in large corporate environments as well as entrepreneurial settings. Together Jill and Wendy co-founded Spark Ideas Inc. in 2003.  Spark exists to help people, teams and brands thrive. 

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