How Introverts Can Be Excellent Leaders Despite Societal Sterotypes


On an Australian show called Q&A, where Bill Gates was a special guest. He was asked, “How he managed to succeed in a predominantly extroverted world and how can the education system, with its increasingly extroverted ideals, harness the positive features of the introverted personality?” This is a question that deserves an extensive response because we have an agelong misconception that introverts are less likely to be successful leaders in comparison with their extrovert counterparts. 

This misconception has its origin in the ancient Greek philosophy that leadership is a product of birth and personality traits. These personal qualities include charisma, eloquence, and flamboyance. The term “Charis” in Greek means “favour” or “grace,” and it was associated with a divine gift. Leaders who possessed an exceptional ability to communicate, persuade, and evoke a positive response from their followers were considered destined by the gods. In ancient Rome, leadership charisma was also highly valued. In ancient Rome, leaders were expected to exhibit qualities such as strength, eloquence, and the ability to inspire loyalty among the people and the army. This is because of the undeniable influence of Greece on Rome. Even the Romans acknowledged that their culture borrowed heavily from the Greeks and became more sophisticated as a result. This happened through cultural exchanges that was facilitated by trade, travel, and the eventual conquest of Greece by the Romans.

Traditionally, the image of a leader is someone who is charismatic, sociable, and outgoing, someone who can easily command attention and motivate people. In his work “Rhetoric,” the famous Greek philosopher Aristotle outlined the principles of persuasive communication, emphasizing the importance of ethos (character), pathos (emotion), and logos (logic). These principles were influential in shaping the concept of charismatic leadership.

However, in recent years, the notion that introverts can’t be successful leaders has been challenged. Research suggests that introverted leaders can be just as effective, if not more effective than extroverted leaders. In a world that often values extroversion, it’s time to recognize that you can become an excellent leader, even though quiet. Introverted people can be excellent leaders. And you don’t have to change your personality. In this article, we will explore what it takes to lead successfully as an introvert.

How To Become Excellent Leaders As Introverts

1. Accept and Value your Introvertedness
The first step for aspiring introverted leaders is self-acceptance. In other words, don’t try to masquerade as extroverts. Instead, embrace your strengths and unique qualities such as planning and listening. These traits contribute to effectively addressing the complex demands of leading people and managing resources.
2. Understand Your Strengths
Success for introverted leaders lies in understanding and leveraging their natural abilities. Introverts tend to be deep thinkers and excellent listeners. They are often very good at analyzing information and coming up with innovative solutions to problems. Qualities like self-awareness and introspection come natural to them. These are all qualities that can be incredibly valuable in leadership. As an introverted leader, don’t try to be someone you’re not. Don’t let anyone talk you out of your uniqueness. Both introverts and extroverts offer valuable contributions to their roles and organizations. Therefore, always play to your strengths– it remains your winning edge. Despite your personality, you can contribute fully and be an effective leader in your organization by adapting your leadership style to be successful in diverse situations.
3. Communicate Effectively
Effective communication is vital for any leader, regardless of whether they are an introvert or an extrovert. It’s important to recognize that effective communication doesn’t mean being the loudest voice in the room. Introverted leaders can excel by recognizing their preferred communication styles, whether one-on-one conversations or written communication, and adapting them as needed. Remember, effective communication is not just about speaking, it’s also about listening. Make sure to actively listen to people and seek to understand their perspectives.
4. Build Strong Relationships
Building strong relationships with your team members is essential for any leader, but it can be particularly challenging for introverted leaders. Introverts may be more comfortable working alone or in small groups, and may not enjoy networking events or large social gatherings. However, building relationships is critical to establishing trust and respect with your team. To build strong relationships as an introverted leader, you need to focus on quality interactions over quantity. Invest in taking the time to get to know each team member individually and showing genuine interest in their thoughts and ideas. This will help you to establish a foundation of trust and respect, which is essential for effective leadership.
5. Lead by Example
As an introverted leader, you may not be the most vocal or visible person on your team. However, leading by example through consistent actions and behavior reinforces values and priorities. If you want your team members to be punctual and reliable, make sure that you are always on time and meet your commitments. If you want your team to be collaborative and supportive, make sure that you are always willing to lend a hand and work together. Exemplary leadership is a powerful way to easily build trust with your team. It also helps to create a culture of accountability and excellence.
6. Practice Self-love
Finally, prioritizing self-care is crucial for introverted leaders to prevent burnout. Leadership can be stressful and demanding, and introverts are highly susceptible to burnout. Taking breaks when needed, engaging in rejuvenating activities, and setting necessary boundaries to protect your time and energy. Taking care of yourself is not only important for your own well-being but also for your effectiveness as a leader. When you are well-rested and energized, you are able to lead effectively.


Forbes conducted a research on managing the complexities of team dynamics. The results indicate that extroverted and introverted leaders both excel when managing different types of employees. Extroverts are effective when managing passive employees who require a more directive approach. On the other hand, when employees are proactive and vocal with ideas for improving work processes, introverts’ skills tend to be more useful. This shows that introverts have plenty of strengths that can contribute to organizational success.

The societal stereotype that consider introverts as inefficient leaders should be dismissed. But often, the best leaders are introverts who possess a quiet power. Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan, Bill Gates, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Theodore Roosevelt, Nelson Mandela, Warren Buffett, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg are just a few examples. Recognizing the value of both introverted and extroverted contributions is essential for promoting equal opportunities for promotions, recognition, and leadership roles.


Linus Okorie MFR is a leadership development expert spanning 30 years in the research, teaching and coaching of leadership in Africa and across the world. He is the CEO of the GOTNI Leadership Centre.

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