You’re in a meeting with the rest of your team.
Someone starts off with an issue they are having, and how they perceive it should be addressed.
Then the person to your left chimes in with their solution, and how the first speaker’s idea was wrong from the start.
But that gets questioned by a third team member, who jumps in on the conversation before the proceeding idea was even finished.
Back and forth the conversation goes, with most of the members talking over each other to be heard, and you try and take it all in as best as you can – listening to everyone’s opinions, finding the strings of clarity and good ideas in everything that is being said.
Before you know it, the half-hour allotted to the meeting is up, and everyone starts packing their things up to head out. But there’s one problem – you hardly spoke a word the entire meeting.
You listened intensely to what was being said, and have a great handle on what went on in the meeting: what went right, what can be improved, and how to synthesize that information into a direction the group should take next.
But that was never expressed to the team, and you are now perceived as a passive member who they should just delegate tasks to, instead of being seen as a contributing thought leader.
Introverts often get a bad rap. They’re viewed as passive, nerdy, not communicating well, and even having low confidence and self-esteem. These assumptions are mostly based off of common characteristic traits of quiet people that get distorted through today’s popular lens of extroversion, and are viewed as weaknesses – traits that hold reserved people back, getting in their own way of continued personal growth.
Some of these characteristics of introverts include:
- Desiring to spend time by yourself
- Spending time home instead of attending a party or networking
- Not speaking much in public
- Having a small circle of friends
- “Living within your own head”
- Not being very good at small talk
- Being somewhat awkward interacting with others
- Talking frequently about deep conversational topics
- Taking your time to reach a decision
If you embody any of these traits, congratulations: you’re not weird, you’re just an introvert (And if you’re really curious, you can better find out with this test).
Yet contrary to popular belief, these are not deficiencies. They are just character traits of an introvert, and serve as the basis of core, fundamental strengths for persons of reserve.
You have to start seeing these dispositions as assets and advantages. Yes, you may be more reclusive, but that same ‘weakness’ in the eyes of others is actually a strength in disguise – you are a better strategic, long-term thinker and a better critical problem solver. You know how to take the time to step back and deeply analyze a problem to find workable solutions instead of just plunging head-first into it.
The first step to leveraging these strengths is to know yourself – what your strengths and weaknesses are, and how you can leverage those strengths to your best advantage. Because believe it or not, introverts have the abilities to become some of the best leaders we have due to our unique, innate sets of skills.
Some of our greatest leaders have been introverts: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Mahatma Gandhi. The list could go on, but the point is that introverts are naturally inclined to a list of strengths and skills that can make us natural leaders in a wide variety of areas.
Below is a list of some of the capabilities that can come out of these natural traits that were listed above:
Strengths of Introverts
- Performing analysis, research, and critical thinking
- Pursuing any occupation that enables privacy
- Both creative skills (writing, art) and technical skills (computer science, engineering)
- Being self-reliant
- Listening to opposing positions, taking in all the facts
- Pursuing intrinsic rewards vs. rewards of wealth or fame
- Reading people and observing others
- Developing opinions on, speaking on deep, meaningful topics
- Being better prepared for a class, presentation, or meeting
- Reflecting and performing self-analysis, learning from your mistakes – enables quick innovation and development
- Forming close relationships
- Going deep on learning a particular topic, becoming an expert
- Thinking before you speak
- Managing and eliminating risks
- Being responsible in thinking about future consequences of actions
- Identifying your innermost values and sticking to them
- Interacting with people one-on-one or in small groups
- Enhancing and supporting other’s strengths, skilled at leading teams of extroverts
- Delaying gratification to pursue long-term objectives
- Maintaining focus, concentration, and persistence to solve complex problems
- Making a plan, and sticking with it
- Expressing yourself in written form rather than verbally
- Utilizing email and social media
- Leading through consensus to motivate people with a unifying vision
- Pairing with extroverts
And while it is extremely beneficial, almost mandatory to know what we can do, it can also be vitally important to know what we cannot do. What are our weaknesses due to our reserved nature – activities or characteristics we would be best served to stay away from, or be cognizant of when interacting with others?
From the lead-in example, a strength of an introvert is not leading in large groups. We are much better served with small teams. But being aware of this, an introvert can overcome this issue by leveraging one’s strengths in listening and analysis throughout a meeting to steer the direction of the conversation – only interjecting when the need or opportunity presents itself to make or back up a critical point, and then resuming the position of critical observer.
We should always be aware of our weaknesses. Not that we dwell on them, but so that we are cognizant of our limitations.
Weaknesses of Introverts
- Maintaining frequent or constant in-person communication
- Speaking up and expressing your thoughts, needs, or concerns
- Working in groups or open floor plans extensively
- Making quick decisions
- Politicking, ‘working a room,’ promoting yourself
- Getting outside of your house for social events, especially if you’ve been out earlier
- Learning about a wide variety of topics, focusing on breadth over depth
- Speaking quickly, answering questions on the spot
- Acting with incomplete knowledge, accepting a high degree of risk
- Thinking from others’ perspectives, thinking outside yourself
- Giving speeches or any public speaking
- Faking enthusiasm, working on projects that don’t seem important to you
Again, the key here is not to obsess over your weaknesses, or compare yourself to much of what you see in the movies and media. You don’t have to be a loud, charismatic, look-at-me personality to succeed in life. You can still be James Bond – you’re just more likely to be a Daniel Craig than a Pierce Brosnan.
Don’t focus on the weaknesses and become dejected on where you lack, but become self-aware and cognizant of what you naturally can and can’t do. Be realistic. Then focus instead on how you can leverage these strengths to become the best that you can be, to become a leader of men.
Read biographies on Washington, Jefferson, and Musk to learn how they utilized these strengths. Talk to other people you know who display some of these introverted tendencies, or just start practicing to do some of the things you believe yourself to be naturally good at. You will figure out pretty quickly how you can start utilizing your natural disposition toward leading a quiet life to lead a life of fulfillment, growth, and success.
For a more in-depth look at some of these characteristics and the strengths that they lead to, check out the following list of books. I’ve found these to be a great starting point and reference: