Ideas for leveraging your unique strengths
Since we are likely quicker to spot and even
glamorize the outgoing extroverted leaders,
it’s easy for introverts to either look to avoid those opportunities or be overlooked.
By Meg Mckeen, CIC
I recently caught up with a friend and colleague, Nathan Whitaker, a leadership expert and professional public speaker. During our chat, we both sheepishly “confessed” to having had lots of people-time and subsequently needing time to reset without human interaction. What followed was a beautiful conversation about extroversion and introversion and how our inclination towards one or the other impacts both the work we do and our relationships with others. Nathan was gracious to go deeper into this topic in the Q&A that follows.
Meg: Though it’s believed there are more extroverts than introverts among us, with up to two-thirds of the population identifying as extroverted, there is a lot we can learn about leadership through an introvert’s lens. First things first, how can you spot an introverted leader?
Nathan: Introverts aren’t always as easy to spot as we might think. For one, the introvert/extrovert question is best seen as a spectrum, with most of us having leanings in one direction. Also, it’s best seen not as shyness or being quiet, but rather where one derives energy.
For example, an introvert might be fantastic at working the room in a social gathering (but then want a change to be with just a couple of close friends to recharge), while an extrovert might find themselves tongue-tied in a small group but then need to seek out a larger group that they find stimulating.
Closer to home, I’m a public speaker (when traveling, I love working a room or speaking to an audience), but I skew toward the introverted side when I’ll then look for chances to escape for a bit where I don’t have to be “on.”
Meg: Rooted in our own beliefs and experiences, we often bring our own biases with us when we think about the characteristics of an extrovert and an introvert. As leaders ourselves, these biases influence who we might think has the capacity to be successful in leadership.
As we work to reduce or eliminate this bias, what should we remember about qualities of successful leaders?
Nathan: Leadership requires a number of different skills, including but not limited to connecting, encouraging, motivating, listening, analyzing, giving others credit, casting a vision, and keeping sight on the future. Of those eight potential leadership skills, one could assume the first three to come more easily to extroverts, the next two to introverts, and the final three to either.
Ultimately, no matter the way or frequency with which we need to recharge, we need to be conscious of those skills that might not be in our comfort zone and how they might be keeping us from stepping into our full leadership capabilities.
Meg: I love this focus on self-awareness. So now that they’re able to spot them, how can leaders—either extroverted or introverted themselves—support the introverts that might be part of their teams?
Nathan: Leaders can easily support introverts in a couple of different ways—first by encouraging them to embrace leadership opportunities. Since we are likely quicker to spot and even glamorize the outgoing extroverted leaders, it’s easy for introverts to either look to avoid those opportunities or be overlooked. Rather, as leaders, we should be looking for the potential to influence and encourage that, whether extroverts or introverts.
Second, leaders can support introverts by helping them find opportunities to recharge. If we are encouraging (or requiring) introverts to get out in front on occasion and cast a vision, motivate groups, or otherwise get outside of their comfort zone, we may need to help them take (and be comfortable taking) opportunities to be alone and recharge.
For example, rather than schedule back-to-back presentation-style project reports, a leader might break those up with a buffer between where the introvert can find a different task and setting to recharge.
Meg: Thank you, Nathan, for highlighting the opportunities we have to leverage the strengths of our introverted leaders in the insurance industry.
Note: For more information on Nathan Whitaker—a motivational and leadership speaker, NYT bestselling author, and former NFL executive—visit www.nathanwhitaker.com.
Meg McKeen, CIC, founded Adjunct Advisors LLC in 2018 with the simple belief that we can and must do more to support the individuals who choose a career in the insurance industry. Her experience working for more than two decades in underwriting, leadership, and sales within the industry fuels her work as a consultant today, in which Meg now holds space, at the crossroads of personal and professional development, for insurance professionals as they navigate their shifting relationship with work and this current hard market. Meg’s work includes private and small group coaching, workshop facilitation, industry event speaking and planning engagements, and the podcast she hosts, Bound & Determinedsm. Learn more at www.adjunctadvisors.com.