5 misconceptions about introverted leaders by Carol Stewart

There are many misconceptions about introversion and, as a result, there is an unfavourable bias towards introverts in our society. In the corporate environment, it is often the case that those who are more vocal are the ones who get recognition and get ahead. The quieter ones often get overlooked.  The same can be said in some churches.

Here are five misconceptions about introversion that can shape a person’s bias unfavourably towards someone who is introverted. 

1. They lack confidence
Many people associate introversion with a lack of confidence. A woman told me how her manager had concerns about her, and wanted to have a word about her confidence. Because she is introverted, her manager assumed it meant she lacked confidence, but this woman didn’t have an issue with confidence at all.

Many people automatically assume that someone who lacks confidence must be introverted, however extroverts can lack confidence too. And, just because someone is introverted, it doesn’t automatically mean they lack confidence.

2. They are shy
Many people mistake introversion and shyness as being the same thing, but to be shy means that someone is nervous or timid in the company of other people. Some introverts are shy, but some extroverts are too. 

Introversion on the other hand means that someone has more of a focus on things that are internal to their mind, and draw energy from being alone and going inwards. Extroverts focus on things that are external to their mind, and draw energy externally, ie. being around other people.

Extroverts can be shy and, in a social setting, if there is a shy extrovert, they’re probably feeling anxious, whereas an introvert in the same environment could just be overstimulated.

3. They are indecisive in meetings
In the book, Introverts in the Church by Adam McHugh, there is a quote that says ‘Introverts think to speak, whereas extroverts speak to think’, which sums up how what happens in meetings. The way many meetings are conducted requires on-the-spot responses to questions, but introverts, who prefer to think and reflect before speaking, may come across as indecisive to those who aren’t aware.   

You may not necessarily see introverts being forthright with their views at meetings, but the voice of reason is often required along with spontaneity when decisions are being made.

Both introverts and extroverts have something valuable to contribute, and playing to both strengths at the table makes for a powerful dynamic.

4. They are fearful of networking
Spending lengthy periods in large, noisy social environments is not the best place where introverts want to spend their time. Being in those sorts of situations for too long can be draining for them. Not ones for working the room and making small talk, they prefer deeper, meaningful conversations.

Extroverts on the other hand are more likely to be energised by such environments, and by being around people. They often like to ‘work the room’, speaking to as many people as possible.

Both introverts and extroverts can be fearful of networking. Being fearful is not the same as finding the environment draining.

5. They are not good at leading others
Some people wrongly assume that because introverts are quieter and reserved, they won’t be good at leading others. But this is far from true. Because of their reflective style, introverts are likely to listen carefully to the people they lead, giving them autonomy to develop their own ideas, allowing them to grow and develop. This makes for engaged, motivated team members.

Their calm persona doesn’t invoke panic in times of crisis, and can project a reassuring confidence during challenging circumstances.

Along with their good listening skills, introverts can be good at building empathy within the teams they lead. This is a critical skill for effective leadership because it helps to build trust.

6. They don’t like public speaking
Because introverts don’t want to hog the limelight and are not loud and brash, some people assume they are not going to like public speaking. However, many introverts love public speaking, particularly if it’s a topic they are passionate about.

Their introverted, reflective nature makes it easier to develop an awareness of how engaged their audience is, and because introverts prefer not to put the attention on themselves, their delivery focuses on the message and on their audience, and how what they have to say benefits them.

There is a need for both introverted and extroverted leaders. Challenging the misconceptions and the perception we have of others will help us to challenge the biases that cause others to be treated less favourably.

God created us in His image and, whether introvert, extrovert or in between, He made us different for a reason, because we are all one in Christ Jesus.

Carol Stewart is an Executive and Career Coach, who helps introverted women to excel as leaders. She is the author of Quietly Visible: Leading with Influence and Impact as an Introverted Woman, which is available at https://amzn.to/2Zeqty2

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