In our society, and especially in our work environments, noise reigns.
No, I’m not talking about chatter or ambient clutter – it’s the talkative, maybe even loud types, who capture our attention whether in the work meeting or in public life. We tend to value and admire the outwardly expressive personality types, projecting them with positive qualities such as warmth, confidence, and intelligence.
There are obvious reasons we’re attracted to talkative types. Many extrovert leaders are visionary verbalists. With seemingly little effort, they can engage with employees, persuade investors, or joust with the media, fielding any and all questions and queries.
While we admire the extrovert, the charismatic personality, our positive feeling hides a dislike or distrust for its opposite: the quiet, deliberate introvert. The individuals wired to think, deliberate, evaluate and execute a plan before they talk, argue and present their ideas.
As Susan Cain argued in her bestseller “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” introverts often face “Extrovert Ideal — the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha and comfortable in the spotlight.” This ideal isn’t just an idea, it becomes a template for successful leaders to aspire to emulate and embody.
When we unthinkingly cling to stereotypes, the extrovert versus the introvert, we do NOT see the many valuable contributions quieter types make to any business: from operations to finance, to marketing and product development.
The Secret Power of Introverts in Business
Introvert entrepreneurs can be great forces of change, empowering innovation and entrepreneurism.
Consider pioneering business introverts like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and, of course, Steve Jobs. Each of these renowned leaders, and classic introverts, gained success in an entrepreneurial culture because they knew the greatest key to success for this personality type: harnessing your strengths and partnering with extroverts for the rest.
The history of innovation is a story of collaboration among loud and quiet men and women applying their best minds, talents, and temperaments to problems, inventions, ideas and products worth pursuing.
From science to art to technology, policy and manufacturing, both extroverts and introverts bring value to our human capacity. So, whether you’re an introvert or just working with one, take heart.
With a little understanding and the proper resources, introverts are a business’ secret weapon.
Here are seven reasons that show the power of introverts:
1) There’s NOT just one type.
The truth is, all of us are born somewhere on the personality and psychological continuum of introverts and extroverts. This means that the introvert personality type isn’t black and white in the way we normally characterize it. In fact, there are THREE types of introverts: lively, medium, and classic.
Lively introverts tend to be creative leaders, like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Oprah Winfrey. They’re lively in how they express themselves, especially in short bursts, like meetings with clients or investors.
If you deploy them for a presentation, when they’ve had plenty of time to prepare, they are sure to wow your audience with their charisma and thoughtful approach, without taking over the room.
Medium introverts tend to be strong, successful types who exemplify “quiet leadership,” but are able to be in the spotlight when needed, like Google’s Larry Page or Yahoo!’s Marissa Mayer.
And, of course, there’s the classic introvert. Someone like Mark Zuckerberg, who even Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg told The New York Times is, “shy and introverted and… often does not seem very warm to people who don’t know him.”
2) They’re (quiet) interpreters.
Introverts may be quieter than extroverts, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re inactive. While it’s easy to stereotype someone who doesn’t seem to be vocally contributing to a meeting as being disengaged, the truth is they may just be taking it all in.
Introverts are internal facing. This means they can absorb and consider facts, and combine ideas in their head, which they may verbally express at a later time. This is a practical power of introverts.
While extroverts tend to go on and on because they’re talking in real time and are trying to get a better grasp on what they’re actually saying, an introvert can listen to what an extrovert is saying and summarize what they’re really thinking.
3) They can remain objective.
All of that silence means introverts are allowing themselves more time to think things through before voicing their opinions, making it more likely that when they do speak up, we can expect to hear carefully considered, insightful, and balanced ideas.
Because they’re not quite as taken with the power of their own voice, they are often able to remain more objective or even critical of an idea, rather than getting caught up in the excitement of it.
4) They see the big picture.
One awesome power of introverts is taking that extra time to consider all points of view. Thus, this personality type arms themselves with enough information to make a truly informed decision.
While they may not always come up with ideas quickly or “on the spot” like extroverts, introverts tend to hone in on subtleties and nuances, which complements nicely with big-picture visions and strategies.
5) They can remain focused.
Introverts tend to exert self-reliance and individual autonomy, often isolating themselves from extensive social stimulation. Mark Zuckerberg famously eschewed parties during college to stay in and work on “The Facebook.”
As an entrepreneur, it’s important to stay true to who you are, especially if that means saying no to other projects or social functions in order to stay focused on the brand mission or the task at hand.
For an introvert, that means that once they’re invested in something, they usually want to see it through, rather than letting themselves be distracted by the next big idea or even other activities.
6) They offer quality time.
Sitting in meetings may not be an introvert’s favorite part of the day, and scheduling them with back-to-back facetime isn’t going to help anyone succeed. But when they’re able to offer quality time on their own terms, they will be totally present and engaged.
Offering the introvert an agenda beforehand or a quick briefing on expectations will help you both get the results you’re seeking. This power of introverts helps you save time and energy in the long-run.
7) They conserve energy.
Especially during long meetings or brainstorming sessions, there will often come a point when people would feel burned out or exhausted. And it’s the introverts who can save the day by swooping in and bringing energy back to the room.
While the others have been arguing or otherwise wearing themselves out, the quiet ones have been listening and processing the whole time. This leaves them with something left to contribute.
Unlock The Power of Introverts Today for Better Workplaces Tomorrow
In society and many company cultures today, usually the one who talks first (or the most aggressively) tends to lead conversations. But it’s often the introvert who brings his/her thoughtful introspection and unique talents to give depth and clarity to big ideas.
So hopefully, in understanding the secret power of introverts, we can better understand how to support and nurture them. Together with extroverts, we can build a workplace that is truly strong and harmonious.