Month: October 2011

Some of the best leaders are introverts

And some are extroverts.  Bottom line: either can work.  Whether you are introverted or extroverted is not the primary consideration in whether you are, or can be, a great leader.  This idea flies in the face of that unconscious impression formed in our psyches from early on.  Somewhere along the way, we begin to believe that the stereotypical charismatic leader is the only true leader in this world.  Wrong.   

Charismatic types often are good or even great leaders but there is ample research that shows that all leaders are not poured from the same mold.  In fact, in Good to Great, Jim Collins shares findings that leaders of many of the “great” companies do not fit the mold of the charismatic leader.  Many of them were described as naturally introverted.   There were certain other characteristics that they shared that I won’t go into here, but I highly recommend the book.

I often work with coaching clients who are focusing on developing their leadership skills.  Many of them, particularly those early in their careers, worry that they don’t have “it” – natural leadership ability.  They are anxious about trying to become someone they’re not, or pretend that they’re someone they’re not.  They have foreseen failure before they even get started.    Because they get nervous giving presentations.  Because they don’t know how to read people easily.  Because they aren’t uber-confident, directorial, silver-tongued extroverts. Because, because, because. 

There was a fantastic article in Fast Company that made me literally exclaim “yes!” when I read it: How An Introverted Engineer Came Out Of His Shell To Lead Mozilla by Kermit Pattison.  In it, John Lilly, former Mozilla CEO, talks about how he learned to make really small changes – microbehaviors – which had a tremendous effect on how people perceived him.  He didn’t change who he was, just a few things that he did.

You can do this too.  Find a coach or a mentor, read a bit on the topic of leadership behaviors, or attend a workshop, but most importantly, take action.  Start experimenting with tiny changes.  See what works, see what feels authentic for you.  Incorporate change one degree at a time.  Over time, you’ll be amazed at where you can end up.