This isn’t about extrovert-bashing, I love my extroverted friends and colleagues. A mix, I personally find, is the best in life and teams. Extroverts are great at things I am not, and vice versa. I find my extroverts pull me forwards, motivate and excite me, when I am being perhaps too cautious, and yet I am their voice of reflection and contemplation to save a leap without enough consideration. The mix works, it’s how successful ecosystems thrive.
It’s just that we’re in the minority as ‘quiet leaders’- leadership is seen to be ‘done’ in different ways to how we are comfortable and that stimulate our energy. Because of that, because our strengths are so different, we tend to see our qualities as issues, to fix, to get over. And often we exhaust and overwhelm ourselves trying to ‘be more extrovert’, perhaps ultimately burning out.
But what if these very issues were our greatest strengths as leaders and embracing them means we can become the best, thriving leaders we can be? Yes different, but maybe our most senior leaders, and importantly we ourselves, have placed an glass ceiling of ‘this is how it’s done’, rather than thinking more innovatively about how else leadership could be excellent.
Because if we lead and work according to our natures, we have more energy, we’re much more effective, we flow, and we inspire others. So here’s my thinking on seven things that make us such great leaders….
1. Emotional Intelligence (EI)
Established as a far greater indicator of success in the workplace and in relationships than IQ by Dan Goleman, we have it naturally.
This is our ability to recognise and regulate our own emotions, as well as identifying other people’s, and to respond to them with empathy. We use these skills to communicate really well, and to build relationships that are both positive and productive.
For more sensitive leaders however, who haven’t learned to regulate our really strong emotions, we may have spent a lifetime ignoring and suppressing these skills, to prevent them overwhelming us. A good strategy at the time, but not one that serves us as a leader. But the good news is, we can re-find them, and learn to first tolerate and move in steps towards excelling in their use.
2. Connection with our team
OK so I am including empathy here as well as in EI, but forgive me, it’s important. It may be something that we need to support ourselves with so we don’t take on other people’s emotions without the ability to let them go, but my goodness what we can achieve;
Slower, deeper connections are based on trust, and that’s what we’re great at. We don’t make assumptions about things like poor performance – are goals clear, has communication broken down, is something else going on? We ask, we support, we help solve. Which leaves us with an engaged team, and better retention.
3. We think deeply and solve problems
Sometimes we think our proposal, solution, plan is too obvious, we doubt its validity or ourselves; as others are louder with their plans. They’re so sure, so forceful, that they must see something we are not, and the issues we see with their proposal must not be important. But the more times we hold back, we’ll see that they were important, and our suggestion would have prevented them, or caught them earlier, saving valuable energy, time, trust, and reputations.
If we can harness this, explain and speak up, our teams will be clear on the logic, respect and follow us. Together with collaborations and listening to make sure we get the best out of others as well as using our thinking skills, it’s a winner!
4. We empower and really develop our team, and others too
Well, once we’ve put our people-pleasing and perfectionism to bed, working on it and to develop ourselves, we can get on and delegate!
We don’t want the limelight, we’re naturally humble, and we’re excellent at identifying the steps necessary for others’ success. Our natural coaching leadership style and listening skills means we enable supported empowerment. Sadly this means many leave our teams on promotion, but skilled at the next level and returning the investment many-fold.
5. We really listen
We listen to understand, pay attention, not to speak, or answer, or disagree, or to be ‘right’. To do their best, innovative thinking, people need to feel felt, really heard and know they will not to be interrupted.
We can all tell when someone’s not listening, when they’re taking that deep breath in to speak as we are making our point…. We certainly don’t think well then.
6. We’re superb collaborators
OK, so again listening skills are vital here, and hence we’re really good at bringing all opinions together, listening to what is said, forming solutions from chaos as we quietly consider the ‘win win’ outcome. Listening, summarising, reflecting back, all ensure people feel heard, their opinions valued, and their needs met. ‘Asks’ are made clearer at the outset, as are goals, and as we act from a place of consideration and intelligence, we tend to find least confrontational and more relationship-enhancing ways to achieve our desired outcomes.
7. We pause to make great decisions
Not always, and maybe not for long when we are working in high pressure, short deadline situations. But we tend to feel comfortable pausing, to make great decisions, not jumping straight in with ill-thought out solutions. Pause to ask, pause to reflect, pause to discuss take 15 minutes to think whilst walking. This can frustrate extrovert, and be a weakness if taken to excess in the wrong situations, but it can mean the difference between success and failure of a project/team goal. That economist, the decision maker who hasn’t been brought on board, the critical legal advice that could mean averting a lawsuit….
I am not saying this is all we need to do, and we can then take a back seat as leaders, we still need to take decisive action. These are however the skills unique to us that when leveraged, enable us to move forwards with these decisions with the quiet confidence we need.
Quiet Leaders love and use your strengths 🙂