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The Introverted Leader by Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, Ph.D., describes how introverts can enhance their natural temperament and build on their quiet strengths. I found the author’s insights to be very useful in understanding my introverted clients more deeply and am now using this book in my coaching work with all introverted clients.
Many introverted people are drained by meetings, avoid relationship building conversations and lack the visibility they need to be successful leaders.
Known for her expertise in working with introverted clients, Kahnweiler outlines how introverts can:
to influence in today’s extroverted business culture.
The book describes the four key challenges introverted leaders face based on research with over 100 introverted professionals. A practical structure for improvement is provided to enhance communications and increase influence using a self-assessment, development planning guide and the 4 P’s Model for mastering leadership challenges.
The first take away for me is a deeper understanding of the introverted person, how they differ from extroverts and how they must adapt in cultures that are often extroverted.
Introverts often have difficulty coping with the work demands for frequent interpersonal interactions.
Despite their many challenges, Kahnweiler highlights the many positive qualities introverts have.
The one that stands out for me most is how introverts use their quiet mind to:
Introverts do not get easily distracted as most extroverts do and they typically build deeper connections with people. They can make great leaders. There is now significant research indicating that introverts are equally good and may actually be better at leadership. Inc Magazine discusses research that has shown “introverts are more effective leaders in complex and unpredictable settings” and that their quiet leadership is often “critical to a company’s long-term success”.
In my coaching work, one leader recently mentioned feedback he typically receives for his introverted style. People tell him how calm he is in the wake of crisis and pressure moments helping people to navigate difficult situations. Another leader mentioned in meetings she will listen more than talk. She then helps the group align around the key points to keep everyone on track. Harvard Business Review discusses a study that shows how “introverts can use their strengths to bring out the best in others.”
Feedback from many 360 assessments describe introverts as great listeners and with focused attention. Remembering to focus on strengths is key to developing the introverted leader. Many of my introverted clients have appreciated being validated for their natural talents for the first time in their careers.
Kahnweiler reminds her introverted readers to be true to their own style, acknowledge their strengths and explore new behaviors outside of their comfort zones to adapt to extroverted cultures.
The second key takeaway is the unique challenges introverted leaders face and how important it is to address them for professional success. They are often not valued in extroverted cultures for their unique gifts.
Kahnweiler describes four key challenges; stress, perception gaps, career derailers and invisibility:
The last takeaway is the practical 4 P’s Model that outlines four tangible steps to address the above mentioned four challenges.
The four steps are Presence, Preparation, Push, and Practice and work as a road map to improve performance in the areas of public speaking, managing and leading, heading up projects, managing up and leading meetings. This framework outlines a variety of useful tools to address these key areas as a mentor or coach with introverted leaders. They focus on the importance of making a conscious effort to step out from behind the shadows to increase visibility and speak up, prepare for social events, move out of comfort zones and continuously practice new behaviors.
The book has and will continue to be an extraordinary tool for my coaching work in corporate and health settings. It has raised my awareness of the core strengths of the introverted leader and provided valuable tools for helping them manage their introversion. I have had many successful sessions since reading the book where awareness was raised and confidence greatly increased with describing strengths and the need not to change core style, but to balance their internal and external behaviors.
I have used the 4 P’s Model in my coaching especially “Push” that encourages risk taking, getting serious about developing new behaviors and zeroing in on jumping into uncomfortable interpersonal situations — situations to get out of the comfort zone. The Push strategies: assertiveness, have conversations, face conflict and keep learning. For one client, I recommended they be the first to speak at some meetings and for another client they were to join their team’s weekly social luncheons and stay the whole meeting. And, in another situation, an introverted leader decided to summarize meeting discussions as a way to stay present and involved. Send emails in after meetings with points/thoughts.
Most all of my clients want to increase their visibility while managing up in their organizations. Many of my introverted clients have embraced increasing their assertiveness as a key development goal.
I highly recommend the book for the awareness building and useful coaching framework that can be readily employed. Many coaches are unaware of styles and how they impact leadership behaviors. This book introduces the differences of MBTI E and I Types and leaves the reader fully versed on understanding introverts, helping them maximize their contributions and ways to coach them successfully. Clients who read the book will benefit from bringing the learning takeaways into the coaching sessions.
The most useful point not to forget in the book is that you don’t need to be the life of the party to be a successful leader. If you address the challenges head on and balance internal and external focus, your talents can be an advantage and greatly benefit the organization.
Introverted leaders may actually be better at leading using their natural strengths of good judgement, engaged listening, focused conversations, and inner focus. These strengths result in excellence in problem-solving and decision-making.