Do you know if you are an introvert or an extrovert? For a long time I thought I was extroverted but wondered why I felt soooo tired after being around people for long periods of time. I know now that I am introverted. I get my energy by being alone. Only a few individuals give me energy. They happen to be my best friends. The only trait that makes me appear to be extroverted, is my intense drive to “be heard”. That may be because I am the baby in a large family. If you didn’t speak up, you may not get fed.
So, even though I get tired being around people in general, I cannot stop myself from seeking them out. I demand to be heard, love sharing opinions and listening to others points of view. I love the debate. I love to learn. The only problem is that I cannot maintain that level of attentiveness longer than one day. Attending a two or three day conference is so HARD. Day one, I can engage. Day two, I begin to get quiet and only speak up when the topic hits something I am passionate about. Day three, I think I only speak up when I completely disagree or feel like we are missing a critical element in the discussion. Sugar and caffeine are my best friends on that day.
Now as a leader, being an introvert is a complete disadvantage. Or is it? Yeah I get tired but I also listen carefully. I don’t tend to fill the space in my head with “what am I going to say next”. I listen. I observe. Now honestly, on day three my observation powers dwindle as I look for my escape hatch but I do hang on if necessary! If you are in introvert, use your ability to observe, to listen and to make those close connections that really matter to you. When us introverts speak, people tend to listen. Why? Because we speak when we feel compelled. Not just to hear ourselves talk.
Why do I feel being an introvert is an advantage? Well, I listen to what my team needs. I listen to understand the challenges and think about possible solutions. I observe the team dynamics and “coach” appropriately to bring out the best in the team. I let my team come up with ideas and don’t dominate the conversation. But, I am not afraid to make decisions. I take what I learn and apply it to the business needs at hand.
So fellow introverts, store your energy, be proud that you are an introvert and know that you too can lead. You too can have a huge impact in your job. Don’t hesitate to speak up. Don’t hesitate to make new networking connections. Use up your energy because, as you know, you can always re-energize on the commute home.