The Introverted Leader

Building on Your Quiet Strength


  • On Amazon
  • ISBN: 978-1576755778
  • My Rating: 6/10

In The Introverted Leader the author presents her 4 P's Process – preparation, presence, push, and practice – which should help in a wide variety of leadership scenarios. It is complemented with many anecdotes from the author's coaching and consulting practice.

I think the book title is a bit misleading because the techniques presented are useful for everyone, not only for introverts. You also get the impression that the author – a strong extrovert – thinks there is something wrong with introversion even though she makes many good observations and positive statements about life as an introvert. An introverted co-author would probably have benefitted the book.

My notes


Work would be great, if it weren't for the people.

Workplace success is based on more than how much you know. It is equally about relationships with people.

Introduction: What Is an Introverted Leader?

Introverts have a temperament that is more inner-focused, and they must adapt to an extroverted world, one that is primarily driven by interpersonal interactions.

There is a difference between introversion and shyness. Shyness is driven by fear and social anxiety. Although the symptoms may overlap, introversion is a preference and should not be considered a problem.

Leaders have to make sure the job gets done, and they also need to plan for change, coach others, and work with other people to get results.

The power of silence is a characteristic that can serve as a strength. Many people are not comfortable with silence and try to fill the gaps with comments that are off the cuff, whereas the comments made by the introvert can be more thoughtful.

The person in the room with the most power is the quietest.

Four Key Challenges

Although you may have buzzed along pretty smoothly in your role as individual contributor, once you decide to move your career forward, or after your organization taps you for more responsibility, life can become more complex if you are withdrawn.

The four major categories of challenges introverted leaders encounter at work are stress, perception gaps, career derailers, and invisibility.

For introverted people, lacking the self-assurance and confidence to assert themselves in social situations can affect not only their performance, but even more importantly, their health. It is not as much stress (which will always be there) but our reaction to it that causes problems.

It is common for introverted leaders to become very tired when they are forced to continually be with people.

One of the ways you can tell if you are introverted is that you need time to recharge your batteries and decompress after you spend time with others.

There are often key differences between how we think people see us and how they actually do. It can be helpful for introverted professionals to understand the nature and results of this disconnect between their intended message and what comes across. Negative impressions, and possibly being labeled as slow thinkers or as having no backbone are some of the negative perceptions that introverted leaders may face.

Introverted people do not intend to create a negative impression. Yet, they often do with others who are more outgoing. They want to be seen as competent and confident in their work environments, but along the way, this can get derailed. Their silence and sparse words can create the impression that they are withdrawn, gruff, insensitive, or even rude.

Extroverts have little or no grasp of introversion. They assume that company, especially their own, is always welcome. They cannot imagine why someone would need to be alone; indeed they often take umbrage at the suggestion. As often as I have tried to explain the matter to extroverts, I have never sensed that any of them really understood. They listen for a moment and then go back to barking and yipping. Impressions are formed early in a relationship and though they don't intend to be seen as angry or curmudgeons, introverted people are often perceived this way. Unfortunately, these impressions tend to stick.
Jonathan Rauch

In the absence of words, sinister assumptions can be formed by others and projected onto the quiet person.

A misperception is that introverted people lack quick thinking. If they don't share their ideas immediately they are not seen as contributors.

Often, pausing to offer a carefully considered response can be perceived as either not being quick enough, being a procrastinator, or even being indecisive, a major faux pas for those on the leadership track.

It requires more than technical or subject matter expertise to get people motivated and achieve results. Interpersonal skills are key as you take on leadership roles. When you are achieving results for your company and developing relationships, career possibilities open up both in your organization and in your field. Introverted people inevitably hit a wall in their careers when they don't attend to the relationships side of the equation.

Careers are made or broken by what people know about you and your accomplishments.

You can't expect people to be mind readers, so by not highlighting the results you have obtained, you can stay stagnant in your role. If you don't talk about what you do, people don't know about either your skills or your potential.

People hire people they know and trust.

Not being front and center is another trait that can create problems for introverts in the workplace. The key impacts of being invisible are lost opportunities, ideas not heard, and lost personal power.

E-mail has been called a "multiplier of misunderstandings". Though e-mail has been a boon for introverts, it can also create numerous disconnects, and sour just the relationships you need to build to succeed as leader.

Unlocking Success: The 4 P's Process

The 4 P's Process is an easy-to-remember road map to improve your performance. Preparation, presence, push, and practice address the four challenges of stress, perception gap, derailed careers, and invisibility.

Preparation is the first step in the cycle. Preparation will give you the confidence to handle any spontaneous situation. Presence, the second step, is how you are positioned in the present. It is the step that shows people you are engaged. The third step in the process is push. This is the step in which you push yourself out of your comfort zone. Pushing through your fear, after you have prepared and learned ways of being present, is the way to develop and solidify your skills. The fourth step is practice. It is taking advantage of every opportunity to practice new behaviors. After you have mastered a skill or a tool, the 4 P's process starts all over again.

Preparing for interpersonal interactions is the single best action step you can take.

Preparation means you have a game plan, so take the necessary time to be alone and strategize for interpersonal interactions (e.g. clarify your purpose, think of specific questions and phrases to say, take notes, and rehearse with a trusted peer). Observe those who have great interpersonal skills and integrate their approaches into your style.

One of the best ways to demonstrate leadership is to show that you are present. The perception gap, or the gap between your intended image and your perceived image, substantially closes if your listener believes that you are with them. Instead of being perceived as an aloof or disconnected person, you are viewed as someone who has empathy and integrity.

Do that which you are most afraid to do.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

When you push yourself to take risks, you allow others to see what your potential is.

It is important to place yourself in situations where you are forced to stretch and get out of your comfort zone.

Practice will make you proficient and help you incorporate many tools into your standing repertoire. It is practice that keeps you fresh and experimenting with different ways to connect with people and deliver your message. Practice is also what gives you the ability to recalibrate your approach and demeanor depending on the situation.

When you practice behaviors at work that are unnatural, they will feel strange at first. However, with conscious repetition, you learn to close the perception gap by being viewed as who you want to be.

Strengths and Soft Spots

Until pushed out of their comfort zone, introverts often see themselves as technically competent but not as people who can profoundly influence others. Yet when offered an opportunity to take charge, introverted individuals can lead with a presence more powerful than their more talkative counterparts.

Don't forget your strengths. We spend so much time on fixing what we aren't doing well that we often forget the leadership situations that we already handle well.

Public Speaking

Public speaking can be our greatest asset or our worst liability.

Being introverted does not mean you can't also be a phenomenal speaker.

As a leader in your organization or profession, you need to educate, inform, and persuade people. You also need to challenge individuals to talk to you and each other. Setting the stage may require laying out a business case or problem to be solved, presenting your ideas, or summarizing results for management. All of these require you to deliver a command performance.

The presentation you give tomorrow will be that much better because of the speech you delivered today.

Richard Elmes

The synergy of well-prepared material and, even more importantly, your attitude is a winning combination for presentation success.

You should know the purpose of your program, Is it to inform, persuade, educate, or motivate? Do you know what you want people to leave with? Why should they care about what you have to say? What are the three big points you want to make? Focus in depth on these points, and use lots of examples. Do not overload your audience with numerous points. What do you want them to remember? This will be the basis of your talk.

Being prepared gives you the confidence to get up there and be with your audience.

Stories emphasize ideas a lot more powerfully than bullet points on a slide. They are the key to a successful presentation.

Communication can't feel genuine without the distinctive personality of a human being to provide context. You need to show up when you communicate. The real you, not the polished, idealized you. The missing ingredient in most failed communication is humanity.

The most powerful stories come from our own experience. This is especially true when we reveal our flaws. It is then that we connect with the audience.

The audience showed up to hear the expert (that's you) talk about a solution to a problem that's causing them pain, not to hear you perform 'PowerPoint karaoke' by reading PowerPoint off of the slides.

Kevin Smith

Taking slow, deep breaths prior to speaking relaxes you and helps you to calm mental chatter.

You will be amazed at how much rehearsing out loud helps. Speech coaches also recommend that you tape your program and listen to it afterward to keep improving the delivery, especially if this is a program you will present again.

How we breath affects how we sound.

Pausing is one way to use your voice for impact. Introverts are less afraid of silence than extroverts, so use this to your advantage. A pause before your point gets your listener's attention and prepares them for what is to come. A pause after your point lets the idea sink in.

What are the key steps that will move you to public speaking mastery? Speak and speak some more. Take every chance to speak in order to improve and increase your comfort level.

Opportunities are all around you to get up and speak. Invite people to observe you and always ask for feedback. Yes, practice is hard and it is uncomfortable, but it is the only way to get better.

Managing and Leading

People want you to treat them as more than cogs in a wheel. They want to matter. By being genuine and showing a sincere interest in people's top-of-mind issues (both personal and work-related), you build trust and honest communication.

Do you remember what it felt like the last time someone asked about your life and your work concerns in a genuine way? When they listened to the answer, you probably felt like you were the only one in the room. This ability to be so truly present with another person is one of the marks of effective leadership.

Good bosses are great listeners, encouragers, communicators, and courageous; they have a sense of humor, show empathy, are decisive, take responsibility, are humble, and share authority.

Stepping into a management role is a scary and exciting proposition for most of us. On the one hand, we are usually pleased to have been recognized for our accomplishments. On the other hand, we wonder if we are up to the task. We also are concerned about giving up what we do well to venture into a land of ambiguity.

It is okay to say no to moving up.

The most difficult person you will ever manage is yourself. We have to learn to manage ourselves in order to manage others. Knowing yourself means understanding what assets and liabilities you bring to the table. With self-awareness you can learn to use your strengths as a leader and compensate for your weaknesses.

When you know your strengths and weaknesses, you can be more objective, detach when you have to, and show appropriate concern for others. Understanding your limitations also allows you to ask for help when you need it.

A leader must have followers. If somebody has a high level of expertise, others will follow that person because of that expertise, not because that person can get up on the podium and give a speech.

Bob Bolton

Meeting with people one-on-one in the first 90 days of your job is a great strategy to understand more about who they are. You can then adapt your approach to match their needs.

Delegation seems the hardest skill for new managers to master. Yet it is probably the most needed. How can you ever lead, plan, and coach if you are holding onto the many tactical aspects of your job?

It is your behavior, not your intention, that people will remember when it comes to listening.

As a newly emerging leader, don't try to change everything overnight.

Many new managers fall victim to their own lack of assertiveness in an effort to please others or avoid conflict. Unfortunately, resentment and frustration can build up, resulting in passive-aggressive behavior.

Asking for what you need in a direct, open, and honest manner is recommended in life and at work.

Make time, even if you have to schedule it, to talk to the people who work with you.

Conflict is any disagreement between people. Though the definition by itself is not negative, many of us experience discomfort when team members disagree, employees push back, or bosses question us. It helps to remember that conflict is natural, necessary, and normal. In fact, creative solutions to problems rarely occur without the tension of dissimilar ideas.

Surround yourself with a support system. Even though you value your time alone, you can schedule one-on-ones and communicate in writing with these members of your informal advisory board. No one succeeds by themselves.

Heading Up Projects

In a relaxed atmosphere you can ask questions and get input without being threatening. Finding out about what is going on from those you are leading or influencing is essential so that you can engage in productive solutions and move on. The heart of project management is being able to influence people who often don't report to you and to get results. Managing your perception as a strong leader often takes a willingness to meet people on their turf and step out of the confines of your world.

Written forms of communication minimize the need for lots of verbal explanation up front.

Face-to-face communication is the preferred format to deliver important news, such as launching a project, giving praise to the team, or working out issues and problems. This type of communication is also effective when giving clear and specific improvement feedback because you are able to ask and answer questions. Of course, when separated by distance, the phone will have to do.

As an emerging or current project manager, you can look for opportunities to praise the team as milestones are reached. It is particularly important to recognize individual contributions as well. This is motivating to people, and, on a more practical level, leads to future raises and promotions.

Keep in mind that not all team members want to receive their kudos in the same way. Knowing people's preferences for rewards is very helpful. Remember your team members, but don't forget to recognize yourself and take needed breaks to refresh and recharge.

You must communicate often and clearly with team members and all stakeholders. Asking questions, listening to concerns, and translating new directions become key parts of your role.

People feel unsettled and look to their leaders for information and reassurance during times of uncertainty. As an introvert, your calm focus and careful preparation will help people.

When you show you can laugh, you and the team enjoy several benefits. (1) The team sees that you are more than all about the work. (2) The team sees that you are human. (3) It gives them permission to lighten up. When a group can laugh, it becomes a safer place to make mistakes and take risks. Laughter serves as a release from tension and stress.

Managing Up

You don't have to like or admire your boss, nor do you have to hate him. You do have to manage him, however, so that he becomes your resource for achievement, accomplishment and personal success.

Peter Drucker

There is great power in the questions you ask. Asking questions like "What keeps you up at night?" can give you a clearer understanding of what others are concerned about and what is most important to them so that you can focus your efforts.

Remember that your job is to help your boss reach his goals, and his job is to help his boss.

You need to help your boss know how to help you. Make it easy for him to mentor you through thorough preparation.

Meeting with your boss regularly is critical. Because her priorities can rapidly change, you need to be ready to recalibrate your own goals and tasks often.

Although you have to take responsibility for adjusting to your boss's management and leadership style, you also have to be yourself. When you meet, be sure to solicit feedback from your boss about what is and isn't working. Ask her to be specific about this feedback and prepare specific questions.

Managers look for results, so whenever you can take on something that can make even a small impact that is visible, your boss will take notice.

Come to your boss with solutions, not just problems. Your boss expects you to get the job done without complaining.

Working through conflict is a step-up skill that affects whether your boss sees you as an independent, proactive contributor or not.

Giving feedback to your boss is important in a strong partnership. This includes both positive and improvement feedback. None of us can work in a vacuum. We all have blind spots. Being fearful of your boss's reaction may keep you safe, but it won't help you strengthen the partnership.

In hindsight, many people believe that they actually learn the most from ineffective bosses.

The Meeting Game

When your ideas and input do not get recognized, you can lose out by (1) not being credited for your contributions, (2) having your ideas preempted or hijacked by others, or (3) being perceived as not adding much value to the group. Your career can be charged up or deflated by how you act and perform in meetings.

You need to prepare before the meeting: (1) know the purpose, (2) have an agenda, and even (3) plan where to sit and stand.

Unless there is a clear target for what you want to accomplish, then it will be guaranteed to be an inefficient and ineffective meeting.

Going to a meeting without an agenda is like going sailing on a ship without sonar, there is no frame of reference and no way to measure progress.

When you know (1) what you are expected to contribute, (2) the desired outcome of the meeting, and (3) the other participants who will be there, you can plan your strategy and comments. You should also plan on getting your first comment heard no more than 5 minutes into the meeting. Get your "voice in the room", because the longer you wait, the bigger a deal it becomes.

Since introverts often want time to process information before they weigh in, schedule two separate meetings for brainstorming and decision making.

Technology can be a huge distraction in meetings.

Building Relationships

Networking is the building of relationships for mutual exchange. It is necessary, but it is not natural for most introverts.

Preparing to build relationships means you should: (1) know your purpose; (2) plan what you have to offer; (3) plan what you need; (4) use social networking to set the stage; and (5) defeat negative self-talk.

If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there.

Who should you target for networking? Consider the influencers in your meeting. Plan to have a conversation, sit with them at dinner, and seek out kingpins at the cocktail reception. These are the people who determine expectations for performance and influence others.

Connecting is a process of mutual exchange, so you need to first know what you have to offer other people in interactions. Consider both work and non-work-related resources, information, experience, expertise, and ideas. Even if people don't take advantage of your suggestions now they know who to tap later on when that information or resource is needed. So put it out there. You will probably be animated and enthusiastic when you speak about your interests. You will also come across as more of a real person, a person of depth. Offering your best self will make you someone with whom others want to continue the conversation, not make the quickest exit.

After you consider what you have to offer, reflect upon your own needs. What resources, information, or expertise do you require now in your life? Consider a flexible series of needs in your head and be prepared to bring out relevant items as the conversation evolves.

Often it is the self-defeating committee in our heads that keeps us on the sidelines. Each of us has to find ways to overcome the fears that can incapacitate us in building relationships. First we need to become aware of what those committee members are saying, and then we need to examine the validity of these statements. Then it becomes a process of replacing those self-defeating thoughts with positive ones.

You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.

Dale Carnegie

Substance talk, as opposed to small talk, is what leads to connections.

You will inevitably be asked to respond to the question: "What do you do?" Especially from people who don't know you. Forget crafting a canned elevator speech. Keep it real. People want to hear simple language that they can understand. Use a three-part formula: (1) "I am" (your position or profession); (2) "who does" (what you do); and (3) "for example". This last part is the most important. Allow your listener to get a visceral feel for what you do by providing an accomplishment or story.

Wins from Using the 4 P's Process

By pushing yourself to be more engaged, you will achieve more personal power and influence. It can also help your career as you become the person that people think of when they need a specific talent.

Practicing is how habits get formed, and once one skill is under your belt, it's on to more practice in other areas. Learning and growth is a continual process.

Excessively pushing yourself out of your comfort zone can lead to too much emphasis on weak areas. This just makes it harder to learn.

What's Next? Moving Toward Success

Setting specific goals for which you are accountable will move your leadership to the next level.