Recently, on the Quora forum, a commenter asked a question regarding the leadership ability of introverts.
“Leaders are commonly thought of as charismatic, gregarious, and able to round up a group of people to rally for a common cause,” the commenter wrote. “How does an introvert get recognized and be seen fit to lead when there are so many extroverts who are more public about their abilities?”
Rightly, many answers pointed out that there is a difference between taking leadership and taking credit.
Software engineer Sarah Karlson pointed out that, “There is a gap between being seen as ‘the leadership type’ and actually being a good leader. The glad-handing salesman who is friends with everyone in the office but never takes time to study or analyze is no better off than our reclusive programmer.”
“Real leadership,” writes Karlson, “requires a blend of reflection and action, of aggression and empathy, and introverts have plenty to offer in that space. The best leaders understand how to strike the right balance for their situation and the people they support.”
Tristan Kromer, founder of LeanStartupCircle, agreed, sharing these two quotes from the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu:
A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.
To lead people walk behind them.
“An introvert does not need to be recognized in order to be a great leader,” Kromer added. “There are those who puff up their chest, make a big noise, and appear to lead. Then there are the quiet ones, who roll up their sleeves, get to work and find others working alongside them.”
The original question offers up a skewed, Americanized version of what it means to be a leader or to have great leadership qualities. This phrasing is also a major part of what’s wrong with Washington. The country tends to elect the most vocal, or they base their idea of strong leadership on who looks/speaks/acts the best.
In so doing, we’ve forgotten to examine results, and we’ve let talk override action.
Don’t let that describe your entrepreneurial journey. Just because you don’t feel comfortable at parties, what does that have to do with your leadership abilities?
You can lead others and be effective at it without being the type of person with whom your co-workers connect on a personal level. Your business is about reaching goals and achieving success, not about camaraderie.
Can you name some introverts who were also great leaders? Share your answers in our comments section below!