You feel like a fraud.
As a manager, you’re expected to be outgoing, inspiring—even demanding. You have to give directions and make tough decisions. You’re often the center of attention.
But as an introvert, you also need quiet and alone time to be at your best. You don’t want to be in the spotlight constantly. You’d rather process your ideas alone and share them in writing rather than speak up in a group meeting.
Employees may find you standoffish. Superiors may secretly think you’re ineffective.
Do you worry you’re just not cut out for management? Do you fear you’re a terrible leader because you’re an introvert?
Introversion isn’t the problem
Believe it or not, introverts can make excellent managers. We’re talking the kind that earns fierce, die-hard employee loyalty.
The trick is not in hiding your introversion, but applying it correctly. Your natural talents can keep employees engaged and productive, and win their trust. Here’s how:
Being an introvert isn’t a shameful secret; it’s part of who you are and how your brain functions. Don’t pretend to be someone else. You’ll exhaust yourself, and appear disingenuous. Be open about being an introvert, and your employees—especially your fellow introverts—will appreciate it.
Let others do the talking
Communication skills are often listed among the qualities of great leadership, and listening is part of good communication. In fact, it’s an underused leadership skill, according to Harvard Business Review. Fortunately, introverts are especially gifted listeners. When an employee comes to you, pay attention and ask questions to get the whole story. Not only will you be more informed, but your employees will feel valued.
Communicate in your style
Introverts usually prefer writing over speaking aloud, and communicate better one-on-one than in groups. Work with this tendency by using memos and emails to keep employees up to date (just be cautious about your tone). Consider setting “office hours,” like a college professor, in which employees are free to approach you with questions or concerns. You’ll appear more accessible to your team and foster one-on-one discussion, an important tool for employee engagement.
Let others take the lead
Good management requires delegation. Often, this works well for introverts, who are willing to share the spotlight. Learn to recognize your employees’ individual strengths, and give them space to use them. You’ll be under less pressure, and your employees will appreciate the chance to shine.
As an introvert, you have particular needs to keep you healthy—mentally, physically, and emotionally. This may include solitude, silence, relaxing music, or deep discussions after a day of chit-chat. Just like staying awake too long or postponing your car’s oil change, neglecting your “introversion maintenance” can backfire. If you understand your introversion, and what you need to nurture it, you’ll be more patient and pleasant in the workplace.
Use your introverted research skills
Read about other successful leaders who were introverts. You might be surprised by who you find! Study how their introversion helped them succeed, and where they may have had to stretch themselves. Consider how you can apply their attributes and skills in your own workplace.
Partner with an extrovert
Like pen and paper, Sherlock Holmes and Watson, or chips and salsa, some things are better in pairs. A trusted, empathetic extrovert can help you fill in the gaps in your management techniques and social skills. This partner may be your mentor, life coach, best friend, or colleague. Pick their brain and observe how they interact with others. You’ll gain a new perspective and become a more well-rounded manager. The extrovert will learn from you, as well!
Help employees see the big picture
While some introverts are more abstract thinkers than others, they are generally adept at finding meaning within their company and their individual roles. As a manager, you can use this trait to help your employees understand your organization’s overall purpose, and how their jobs contribute to that purpose. Employees who understand this are more engaged, reducing turnover and increasing efficiency.
Be the manager they want AND need
Imagine leading a group of people who understand and appreciate your personality. Imagine your employees becoming a more motivated, efficient, and loyal team under the right management—yours.
Not because you struggled to reinvent yourself or adopted a false persona, but because you harnessed your natural gifts.
As an introvert, you already have the qualities of great management. It’s time to let them shine!
Emily Jacobs is a freelance writer, blogger, and content marketer who uses her research and storytelling skills to help clients achieve their goals. Check out her professional website at emjwriter.com.