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Now Is The Time for Introverted Leaders

Guest Post by Jennifer Kahnweiler

I could not be more pleased to host this week’s guest post from my friend, Jennifer Kahnweiler. Jennifer was one of the first Berrett-Koehler authors I met after publishing Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go. I have been so grateful for her warmth and her wisdom. As an introvert myself, I’ve frequently bumped up against stereotypes and misconceptions about what leadership looks like. Jennifer’s books illuminate introversion – and how to optimize its quiet power. In this second edition of The Introverted Leader (which I highly recommend!), she updates her bestselling classic and offers new insights into this important topic. I hope you enjoy her wisdom as much as I do!

Before I deliver a speech or training program, I typically connect with a representative cross section of people who will be attending. I ask about their challenges. Their passionate responses reflect themes such as not being heard and bumping up against hidden and overt biases toward people who are not the first ones to talk, and who don’t exhibit high energy.

Introverted leaders can harness their quiet strengths to meet these challenges. Expanding the traditional model of leadership beyond one based on extroversion can also yield several benefits, including:

  • Solving pressing problems—Quiet introverted strengths help organizations innovate, compete, and lead in a global, digital and diverse marketplace. The creativity and brain power of introverts are needed to inspire new ideas, challenge the status quo, and solve pressing world problems like alleviating climate change and curing cancer. Every day these qualities are needed to help our teams and organizations succeed.
  • Increase engagement—Organizations miss out on between 40 to 60 percent of the contributions of introverted workers who are not engaged. With less than 1/3 of workers worldwide not engaged, according to Gallup6, we can’t afford not to take this huge opportunity to tap into introvert power. By engaging introverts, retention will increase. People tend to stay with companies where they are contributing and recognized.
  • Workspaces of productivity—Workplaces that address introverts’ needs offer spaces for both collaboration and solitude, and options for working remotely. These flexible spaces benefit productivity and are performance boosters for everyone—introverts, extroverts and ambiverts.
  • Extroverts tap into their introverted side—As introverts gain respect and recognition, extroverted colleagues become more aware of their own quiet strengths. By taking even a short pause, for instance, they optimize their own performance, hear the thoughts of others and the entire organization benefits.
  • Accomplish more together—Diverse teams can accomplish more than homogenous teams. Introverts and extroverts, working together, l bring the full range of their strengths to projects.

I often ask for volunteers in my primarily introverted audiences to call out loud the strengths of introverts. There is no shortage of answers as people let their words land. Starting like a light rain shower, they say “Observers, listeners …” And then a torrent emerges: “Writers, humorists, reflectors, calm, resilient,” etc. You can see people sit up straighter as the list of introvert talents and contributions gets longer, and they are reminded of their talents. I believe that everybody has such strengths within.

We face tremendous problems in our workplaces and the world at large. Our organizations, teams, individuals, and ultimately our planet will benefit when we highlight and harness these strengths and reap the broad range of introvert talent available to us all.

Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, Ph.D., Certified Speaking Professional, is a global speaker and expert on introverted leaders. She helps organizations to harness the power of introverts and is the author of The Genius of Opposites, Quiet Influence and The Introverted Leader which have been translated into 16 languages. The 2nd edition of The Introverted Leader will be published on March 6, 2018, and can be pre-ordered now. Reach out to Jennifer on Linked In, TwitterFacebook and at her website.


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