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Finding and Empowering Introverted Association Leaders

image Suzannah Kolbeck image imageNovember 17, 2022 image image3 min. to read
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Finding and Empowering Introverted Association Leaders

Check out any reporting on businesses these days, and you’ll find a lot of buzz about extroverts and their flamboyant leadership styles. In fact, this type of leader tends to get the most press as they actively seek out opportunities to share their thoughts, successes and plans for the future. But by focusing solely on the extroverts leading the charge, are you missing the critical, sustainable strengths that introverts bring to the table? 

Here's how to find and empower introverted association leaders in your organization. 

Introverts vs. Extroverts

There are many different descriptions of the differences between introverts and extroverts, but one of the critical areas of focus is where each gets their energy. While extroverts are energized by interacting with large groups of people, introverts recharge their batteries with solo time or small group conversations. 

Because we stereotype leaders as individuals who are in constant conversation with a wide variety of people, it can be easy to dismiss the introverted style of recharging and leadership in general. After all, if your association reaches across the globe with memberships in the thousands, how effective can an introvert be in reaching out to one person at a time?

Turns out, introverts are arguably the best choice for moving your association forward.

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Why Introverts Make Good Leaders

Modern leadership, with its over-the-top, flamboyant style of headline-grabbing exploits, is perceived as being best conducted by those Type-A personalities with never-met-a-stranger interpersonal relationships

Consider Oprah Winfrey, Warren Buffet, Rosa Parks, and Barack Obama. Each of these leaders is identified as an introvert, yet all have made an indelible mark on the history of the world. 

How?

By calling on the introverted strengths of listening and thinking. The complex reality of today's world, with its many moving parts and global reach, requires reflection and contemplation before action. Many impulsive decisions made by extroverted leaders could be avoided with a pause for thoughtful attention. Introverted leaders are skilled at listening to all sides of the issue and considering them carefully before making a decision. This steady leadership is critical, especially in industries that have the potential for big change in a short period of time.

Introverts bring other strengths to leadership, too.

Introverts are better adapted to technology

Introverted leaders tend to be more comfortable with communication conducted through technology. Consider the mass exodus to Zoom brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. Without face-to-face interaction, many extroverted leaders struggled with this technology, but introverts generally thrived in this setting.

Introverts share the spotlight

Introverted leaders do not need to be constantly on stage. They welcome participation from everyone in the room and are keen to give credit to others for their good ideas. This is in sharp contrast to extroverted leaders who may drown out other quieter voices.

Introverts encourage proactive members

Because introverted leadership styles solicit feedback and offer thoughtful listening, employees and members of an association are more inclined to offer suggestions and be proactive in problem-solving and creative thinking. One study found that this particular introverted leadership strength was associated with higher profits for businesses.

4 Tips for Empowering Introverts

Because introverts have to overcome the significant cultural bias that paints them as shy or antisocial, your association needs to implement a few tips to empower introverted leaders. These work for introverts at all levels of your association.

1. Create a meeting space that welcomes all ideas 

Start by circulating a meeting agenda prior to the meeting. Ask for and incorporate feedback on the agenda. 

During meeting times, implement a system that gives time for reflection and thought before discussion. You may also: 

  • Break a large meeting into small groups
  • Offer the option for online attendance
  • Request that suggestions be submitted in a written format (i.e., email, through Slack, etc).
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2. Consider all communication styles equal

Do not expect all members and employees of the association to be comfortable speaking in front of large groups. Nurture an environment that respects all forms of communication. Before prioritizing large-group, in-person discussions, ask yourself:

  • Can this meeting be an email?
  • Who actually needs to be involved in this decision?

This can help direct who responds, and how.

3. Encourage delegation

Sometimes we expect our association leadership to do it all, but skillful delegation actually works better in many situations. Your introverted leaders have a set of skills that got them to where they are — let them focus on those, and delegate other tasks.

4. Create a space where growing edges are honored

Contrary to popular belief, perfection is not attainable. Indeed, because associations are living organisms that adapt to support their members over time, growth should be respected and honored. Introverted leaders will be more inclined to expand their communication style and work on their growing edges if that is respected within the association. 

How to Identify Introverted Leaders in Your Association

Once you implement the above tips for empowering introverts, chances are good new leadership will begin to emerge. 

Look for:

  • Members and employees who stand out in their particular area of expertise
  • Members and employees who take advantage of training opportunities online
  • Members and employees who consistently communicate via email or through written notes and message boards
  • Members and employees who are described as good listeners or deep thinkers

These characteristics — excellence in their field, desire to learn, written communication, and deep thinking — are closely associated with introverted leaders. Taking the time to identify and develop those members or employees of your association who have these characteristics can identify introverted leaders who might have been missed.

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Why Introverted Association Leaders Are Necessary 

Introverted leaders are skilled at creating deep relationships. As your association grows and moves forward, these relationships are critical when it comes to solving complex problems and tackling challenging work. Finding and empowering introverted leaders in your association gives your association its best chance at moving confidently into the future.

Suzannah Kolbeck writes, paints, and rides horses in Baltimore, MD. She is the author of Healing Where You Are: An Introduction to Urban Foraging.

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