Enjo: Hi, Singlestalk. I’m a developer in one of the top tech companies in Cebu. Just this week, I applied for a leadership role. I wonder if I’ll make the cut. Leaders need to be outspoken, to have big personalities. But I’m not outgoing or big on small talks. Listening comes more naturally than speaking. Is there a place for introverts in an extroverts’ world?
DJ: It helps if you work for a company that’s inclusive. People now appreciate the wealth of spectrums—country of origin, age, ideologies or gender identity. This applies to being an introvert or extrovert, too. Both personalities have advantages and disadvantages, and both are needed for every organization to succeed. Since you’re most likely an expert of introspection, I suggest you take a step back and examine these points.
First, the world’s a stage for introverted leaders who can hold their own. Bill Gates is clever at getting the benefits of being a deep thinker. Mark Zuckerberg knows and cares deeply about his people. Oprah Winfrey shared how she retreats to the bathroom during parties to recharge, but rose to prominence as a person of courage. So, it’s not necessarily true that telling introverts to go up on stage to speak is like telling us to go to hell.
Second, introverts are not anti-social. We’re just pro solitude. Knowing where energy comes from and what zaps it is key. Large social gatherings can exhaust an introvert like running a marathon and we need time alone to recover. That’s why we’re perceived to be fluent in silence. Extroverts, on the flip side, drain their batteries in one-on-one situations and are powered-up by being around people.
Manage your day or the day will manage you. If you’re scheduling group meetings, do it at the start of your shift when your batteries are full. Space your interpersonal interactions, too. While it can be a challenge to connect with everyone in the organization, you can be strategic about who you should engage in meaningful dialogues. People these days look for meaning and purpose. A leader who can carry deep conversations has his or her edge.
Third, leverage on your natural tendency to reflect on problems and spot things others might have missed. There really is no right or wrong approach to decision-making and the creative process.
Some love to think out loud and bounce ideas off. Introverts are the type who consider multiple scenarios. Yes, both types are different but they temper and balance out each other. You can work on how to be more comfortable with expressing your thoughts quickly. There are organizations such as Toastmasters that can help you speak off the cuff. But understand as well that your calm presence allows people to have a voice in the boardroom. This is a cool quality, too to have as a leader.
Believe in yourself. We all come with strengths and weaknesses. Whether we’re introverts or extroverts. Make the most of your qualities. Hey, we didn’t even notice we’re in quarantine! Sure, stepping out of our comfort zone is necessary for growth and development. We don’t need three days’ notice just to talk to someone new. But we ought to learn as well when and how to tune out societal pressures to be someone else.
Different as we are, we all have a shot at being a leader. We just have to work hard and smart in ways that are unique and special about us.