Hey, leadership is not just extroverted male territory. Introverts and women make great leaders too.
Some people know this but it bears repeating. This is proven by research. Many cultures, especially in the U.S., are still stuck in an outdated stereotype that leaders are extroverted men.
Let’s look at the reality for good leadership.
I’ve collected some of my favorite resources for effective leadership here. They are based on real-life stories and research, and they happen to be entertaining too. In each case, you can see what actually works for leadership.
It so happens that caring introverts are naturally great at the things that really work. Don’t worry extroverts, you can be good at leadership too. We need each other.
We all have natural gifts for leadership and we can all develop our talents even further. I hope these stories help.
In any of the resources here, you’ll gain some inspiration for becoming (or allowing) the kind of caring and effective leader you want to be.
Psst, you don’t have to have a leader title to be a leader.
My Journey of Stumbling into Leadership
When I was younger, I was sure I could not be in leadership roles since I was so quiet. It was just a given.
Plus I almost never saw a woman in leadership. Role models matter.
But somehow I kept stumbling into leadership at work in ways that confused me at first. I tried deflecting it but it kept happening.
Then I noticed I secretly wanted to lead. I was offered a major promotion at age 26. Oh, umm. With a big gulp and a teeny bit of hope, I said yes. Was I worried? Yep.
I stumbled on a little book called the Tao of Leadership that revealed a new perspective of what leadership could be, which was not the norm in the U.S. where I live.
It described how leadership was often about getting out of people’s way so they could do what they’re best at. Hmm. That idea planted a seed in me that my natural and softer approach was actually relevant for leadership!
Long story short, I’ve held numerous leadership roles. Some good. Some awful. I see now that so much depended on whether other leaders shared my view about leadership as a service to employees. It also depended on my getting some good leadership training.
I felt redeemed to see research coming out that introverted leaders were particularly good at helping teams perform well by, once again, something akin to getting out of their way. Source: “The Hidden Advantages of Quiet Bosses”, Harvard Business Review.
Today I help many introverted women leaders (and future leaders) find their way with effective leadership, without having to wear an extrovert mask.
I even ended up speaking about these alternative perspectives at a women’s leadership conference, at Harvard Business School.
My Favorite Resources on Leadership
Each of these well-done, story-driven resources are backed by research and point to refreshing ways of seeing what effective leadership really looks like. What works happens to be heart-centered and inclusive.
Follow your instincts as to which one or two of these nourishments you need today. Bookmark this page for when you need more authentic leadership inspiration.
TED Talks and other high quality presentations:
- Wendy Palmer: A touch of grace (33:46)
Wow. Within the first 10 minutes, you’ll feel strong and calm, and gain some simple techniques for effecting your own energy and those around you. Based on neuroscience. This is about Leadership Embodiment. She is an Aikido teacher with such a strong gentle presence.
- Luvvie Ajayi: Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable
She reminds us that no one is without fear. We need to work the muscle of going forward anyway. She talks about speaking up and making sure others are heard and backing them up, with a nod to #MeToo. Plus she makes you laugh.
- Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action (18:05 min)
By studying successful leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., and Apple Computers, Sinek reveals that they all start with Why (a compelling purpose). This talk, as well as his book Start with Why, are well-crafted examples of his own message.
- Margaret Heffernan: Forget the pecking order at work (15:45 min)
She describes switching to a culture of helpfulness among everyone at work. What a great way to be a leader: effective and humane.
- Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (10:47 min)
An animated version of Dan Pink’s talk based on his book of the same name, Drive. This is a shorter version of his hugely popular TED talk.
- Linda Cliatt-Wayman: How to fix a broken school? Lead fearlessly, love hard. (17:07 min)
Get ready to be stirred up by strong conviction and big love, in the toughest circumstances.
- Julia Middleton: Cultural intelligence: The competitive edge for leaders (13:35 min)
In a fun talk, Middleton shares useful insights and basic principles to make multicultural concerns more manageable.
- Shonda Rhimes: My year of saying yes to everything (18:45 min)
This TV producer titan, and mom, reveals how she hit the wall of overwork and then found true joy again.
- Gratitude at Work: Why It Improves What We Do and How We Do It, B the Change
- How Humble Leadership Really Works, Harvard Business Review.
“It sounds deceivingly simple: Rather than telling employees how to do their jobs better, start by asking them how you can help them do their jobs better.”
- Why the Future of the Planet Could Be Brighter: the Regenerative Economy (and how business can lead the way), B the Change
- The Hidden Advantages of Quiet Bosses, Harvard Business Review.
- Cultural Intelligence: From New Idea to Must-Have Skill: An interview with Soon Ang, Cultural Intelligence (CQ) Pioneer
- Inspirational Quotes for Introverts Who Care About Social Impact
- Co-Active Leadership: 5 Ways to Lead
– A short fun read that outlines a doable collaborative style of leadership.
- Dare to Lead: Brave Work, Tough Conversations, Whole Hearts, by Brene Brown
– How to build the courage muscles needed for real leadership, from the heart, from a leading researcher and consultant on courage and vulnerability.
- The Introverted Leader, by Jennifer Kahnweiler
– The assumption that leaders must be extroverted is debunked. Good insights for all leaders and organizations so we can benefit from the gifts that introverts bring. A short easy read that will boost your confidence.
- Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, Visionaries Who Shaped Our History and Our Future.
– Illustrated way to help children learn about great women leaders from Angela Davis and Rachel Carson and Sonia Sotomayor to Zora Neale Hurston. (It helps adults too because we have missed out on too many of these stories.)
Your comments and ideas?
What has been helpful to you when you think about being a leader and an introvert? If you have favorite leadership resources to share, I’d love to know. You can share below.