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How introverts can be leaders and succeed in the workplace

Introverts in Business School

The MBA wielding manager is generally projected as an extrovert business leader who can single-handedly avert (or create) disasters of legendary proportions. Where does it leave the introverts?

In the sea of aggressive and ambitious job aspirants who strive to take on challenges of an ever-changing business landscape, will the introvert manager get trampled?

Can introverts succeed as business leaders or are they destined to forever remain as pawns in their career?

Are you an introvert who should be worried about these questions in the first place?

Let’s tackle these one at a time.

Are you an introvert?

If you haven’t carried out any serious introspection about it, let’s first identify if you are an introvert.

In her book, The Introvert’s Way, author Sophia Dembling talks about the characteristics of introverts. Here are a few traits. If you start going, ‘Yeah, that sounds like me’ for many of these points, the rest of this post is relevant for you.

– You are more comfortable interacting with folks on a 1-to-1 basis. Small groups are fine to an extent, but individual communication works best.

– You don’t always have to ‘do’ something. For you, not doing anything (visibly) can also be productive.

– Even when your body isn’t doing anything, your brain might be in over-drive. Almost like a hamster on steroids. But for people around you, it may seem like you are staring into space like a zombie.

– Solitude and ‘me time’ are extremely important for you to re-energise. After the occasional public appearance (parties, meeting, spending time in crowded places), the need to slide back into your silent little world is even more important.

– When you are arm-twisted into attending one of those crazy marathon parties or meetings, you suck it in and attend the event. But all the while you are looking for ways to escape quickly. When there’s no quick escape possible, you think about creative getaways, like going to the bathroom to enjoy your peace (yes, peace, no typo).

– Getting pushed into the limelight (on stage, public speaking, or even in an informal social event) is no fun. On the contrary, it’s the worst thing that could happen to you.

– You prefer emails over phone calls. Emails allow you to respond when you are ready. Phone calls intrude your private space and rudely knock you out of the blissful state of solitude you are in.

– Your friend list is small enough to be maintained in your head as opposed to a platform like Facebook. Quality over quantity has always been your mantra, specially when it comes to relationships.

– You think idle conversation & social chatting is a waste of time. You wonder often why the rest of the guys are constantly blabbering about. What are they trying to prove and why?
These rules aren’t as black and white as they might seem, although most extroverts seem to interpret them as such. That results in a ton of myths about introverts being rude, asocial, aloof, nerds, scared, uptight with no idea of fun…and many more.

Do introverts make bad managers and business leaders?

Given all those traits that we just saw, it might seem that the managerial species would automatically weed out those who don’t fit into the conventional image of business leaders. However, contrary to what extroverts might think, the proportion of introverts in the world is pretty big.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a popular personality evaluation framework, categorises almost half the population of test takers as introverts. Other specialised personality tests might say 30-40%. Nevertheless, it is a big number.

Despite the huge supply of extroverts offering their services to the corporate world, companies would have a big number of introvert leaders and managers working for them as well.

For every Richard Branson, Jack Welch, Bill Clinton, Lady Gaga who appears in the newsfeeds, there is a good number of introverted but equally successful business leaders (Warren Buffet, Bill Gates) and professionals in other fields (Steve Martin, Albert Einstein, Julia Roberts) to balance things out.

5 Tips for introverts to be happier in the workplace?

First things first, understand that you aren’t a square peg in a round hole.

Irrespective of what your boss says, you don’t have to try and change your personality to mimic the extrovert colleagues around you.

1. Identify which type of activities gets you stressed out at work and which ones you enjoy.

If your management team supports you (you may need to spend some time sensitising them about it), you could always get the workload balanced. Your productivity will improve and your manager would be pleased too with the results.

2. Don’t take it to an extreme by completely blocking out the unpleasant part of the corporate world.

Realise that it is a tough world out there and not everyone will be sympathetic to your requests. There will be times where you need to be capable to shouldering responsibilities you don’t like.

3. Be aware of areas that could turn into phobias and paralyse you.

Whether it is about making presentations to the client or conducting a meeting with difficult representatives from different departments, a gradual and sustained exposure will ensure that your management doesn’t misinterpret your introversion as incapability.

5. When things get too difficult to handle, consider a career change.

There’s no point running through your entire professional life with high blood pressure. Move on to something that you really enjoy. You’d be surprised at how many unconventional career options there are to earn a living.

How your extroverted colleagues can help you

Here’s an infographic to share with your colleagues to help them become more aware of how your ‘system’ functions and how they can keep you happy at the workplace.

Keeping introverts happy at work
Image Credit:

As part of our career counselling resources, we have created our own little online personality test. The questions are relatively straightforward and depend on self-ratings across a range of questions.

However, the results that we see are pretty interesting (sometimes surprising as well) as they provide a structured insight into how candidates perceive themselves. Introversion/Extraversion is just one of the aspects we look at. Check it out if you are keen to dissect your personality and find out whether your personality is compatible with your job.

Are you an introvert who feels stuck in a world dominated by extroverts? How do you cope with it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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Sameer Kamat
About Sameer Kamat
Sameer is the founder of Careerizma and the author of two best-selling books. He's been quoted in the leading international media publications such as Fortune, Forbes, Financial Times. The Times of India, Indian Express and many more.

2 thoughts on “How introverts can be leaders and succeed in the workplace”

    • That’s a tough one, Tanmoy.

      Instead of making it a hard-to-win battle every single day, things would be a lot easier if introverts choose the right career that matches their personality.


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