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Introverts: 4 Ways to Be Yourself and Be a Charismatic Leader

Nina Zipkin Staff Writer. Covers media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.
Shy, retiring, socially inept -- these are some of the stereotypes that plague introverts.
If you are looking to promote someone in your office, don't let a reserved demeanor take someone out of the running. And if you are a card-carrying introvert who has a time limit for big parties or is drained by all-day conferences, you are still entirely capable of being a charismatic leader.
"Introverts need to do two things to become charismatic: make people feel liked and show them your power," says Carrie Keating, a professor of psychology at Colgate University. "Charisma is just that balance between inviting us in close and letting us feel your power by standing apart. Many introverts are halfway there."
Keating notes that a great way for introverts to get out of their own heads and work on being more expressive or comfortable in crowds is to look into acting classes or improv groups.
"You may be surprised by what you can do," she says. "Remember: the stereotype of the introvert is stuck in your mind, too. It's fun to wreck it!"
But she says not to discount the effectiveness of quiet confidence and the qualities that introverts bring to the table, such as empathy and independent thinking.
"Be straightforward about your introversion, you are an introvert for a reason," Keating says. "Diversity is good. Remember that. Many minds and diversity among them make for creativity."
Read on for lessons on how to hone the charisma you already possess and translate it into super-manager status.
1. Double down on your strengths as a listener and strategic thinker.
When introverted people are in the running for a promotion to management, how can they stand out from the crowd and show that they are the right person?
For one, introverts aren’t generally hampered by a need for self-promotion, so they can focus on helping their teams and reaching the goals of the company. Plus, that reserved demeanor can help you be cool in a crisis, which can help put the employees you are supervising at ease.
Lou Solomon, a leadership coach, and the CEO and founder of Interact, a firm dedicated to helping people communicate better, says that it isn't in an introvert's best interest to simply check off boxes of what they think a manager should be or what they think their boss wants. Instead, think about your personal leadership narrative.
"It’s so rare for someone to say, 'Here’s the ‘why’ behind what I do.' As reflective people, introverts are inclined to understand what they are bringing to the position," Solomon says.
Beth Buelow, author of The Introvert Entrepreneur: Amplify Your Strengths and Create Success on Your Own Terms and professional coach known as the “Introvert Entrepreneur,” says that when aiming for promotions, it's important to clearly articulate and connect your skills to how they help you meet the demands of the job. Don’t shy away from doing this for fear that you will appear arrogant.
"Saying 'I’m a good listener' doesn’t really have much power." she explains. Instead say something like this: "'Since I tend to listen more than I talk, I’ve found that my colleagues have more space to express themselves and their ideas, as well as their concerns. As a result, our team has been able to finish projects ahead of schedule.'"
Introverts can also highlight how being inherently meditative can lead to thinking more deeply about a problem and offer solutions, says Lisa Petrilli, author of The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership and chief marketing officer for TheThread.Life, a spirituality-driven online business hub.
"[Introverts] thrive in the world of complex ideas," she says. "We are exceptional strategic thinkers and listeners and bring great insight to our work. All of these characteristics make us inspirational leaders -- and inspiration is at the core of charisma."
2. Plan your meetings around your ability to thrive in small groups.
A great way for an introverted manager to stay true to their nature and while building a rapport with their team is to embrace their tendency to socially thrive in lower-key group situations.
"Schedule regular meetings with employees one on one to get their input and discuss ideas and direction," Petrilli says. "As a manager, you’ll be put into networking positions more often: go with a mindset to help others, which will make you more successful and will decrease the stress of being outside your comfort zone."
Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, broke down the reasons for why introverts perform better in smaller groups in her 2012 TEDTalk:
"Extroverts really crave large amounts of stimulation, whereas introverts feel at their most alive and their most switched-on and their most capable when they're in quieter, more low-key environments … a lot of the time. So the key to maximizing our talents is for us all to put ourselves in the zone of stimulation that is right for us."
During her address, Cain also cited research by Adam Grant, a professor of management and psychology at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, who found that when comparing introverted and extroverted leaders, the introverts were more likely to encourage their employees to "run with their ideas, whereas an extrovert can, quite unwittingly, get so excited about things that they're putting their own stamp on things, and other people's ideas might not as easily then bubble up to the surface."
3. Take the time to recharge.
Introverts often have to recharge by spending time alone. So what strategies can introverted managers employ if they are overseeing a high-stress situation?
Solomon says that it is important to figure out what time of day is the most restorative for you. Whether it early morning, late in the day, or at 2:15 in the afternoon, make that time for yourself a part of your regular routine and incorporate it into your work schedule. And who knows? It could also help develop a culture where your fellow introverts and even the office extroverts feel comfortable to follow suit. You may want to think about setting up a quiet room in the office.
"Don’t respond to emails or voice messages during non-business hours. Take your vacation days, and put your phone on 'do not disturb' for an hour or two each day," Buelow says. "This might have a side effect of creating a culture that gives your colleagues permission to do the same. The goal is to create a more respectful, efficient and effective work environment, where everyone feels like their individual strengths and needs are considered."
If you're particularly slammed one week and your schedule gets a bit upended, don't panic. Petrilli recommends taking mini-breaks, such as a 10-minute walk around the block or simply shutting the door for a few minutes and listening to some music.
"You will be a better representative of your company, and yourself, if you do this," she says.
4. Drill down on your unique brand of charisma.
It's important to understand that introverts don't have to pretend to be or learn how to be extroverts in order to have charisma. Introverts have a talent to genuinely connect.
"People assign a certain amount of charisma to individuals who hold a space in which they can fully express [themselves]," Solomon says. "Introverts can grow that strength by developing the ability to draw people out and make genuine connections through the art of the open-ended question."
Petrilli noted that one of the biggest misconceptions about introverts is that they aren't as socially attuned as their more extroverted peers, but that isn't the case -- extroverts can be just as socially awkward as the introvert.
“The reality is that most introverts are actually quite charming, inspirational and charismatic and are perceived this way, because they have a foundation of authenticity that comes from being very thoughtful and purposeful in their leadership style,” she says.
Confidence in who you are is key, Buelow says. While introverts can tend to be guarded and form connections with others at a slower pace, that's OK. You don't need to wear your heart on your sleeve to be effective.
By simply being generous with your time and expertise while you get to know employees will help build more personal rapport down the line.
Ultimately, the best advice is to simply own your introversion.
"Don’t apologize for it or defend it,” Buelow says. "Name it and claim it! This gives others permission to do the same. People who are unapologetic about who they are are more interesting to be around."
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