Originally published on Forbes.com
There are, however, myths about introverts that every leader must be aware of, including “introverts are too emotional,” “introverts are antisocial,” and “introverts are not confident about themselves.” Introverts aren’t emotional without any reason. They aren’t antisocial or arrogant. They can certainly have high self-esteem.
The only difference between introverts and extroverts is their energy management. Extroverts are energized by having people around them, so they feel the most alive when they’re with other people. Extroverts’ “battery” is located outside themselves.
Introverts, on the other hand, regain their energy when they’re alone. When introverts are surrounded by many people, they feel drained. Introverts carry their battery inside, and they can tap into it whenever they’re alone.
Who are some famous introverts? Among them are Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, Warren Buffett, J.K. Rowling, Abraham Lincoln, Elon Musk and Albert Einstein. The full list is much longer and worth Googling.
Now, what do you need to do when leading introverts?
1. Don’t label them.
People don’t choose to be extroverts or introverts. Just like left-handed individuals, introverts were born that way. Being an introvert isn’t an illness, so don’t attempt to “cure” them. Just accept them as they are.
2. Don’t change them.
There is nothing to change. People are simply different, and these differences make the world the way it is. Let them grow as much as possible, both as introverts and as individuals.
3. Don’t expect them to tell you everything.
Introverts don’t choose to be quiet. That’s just how their brain works. They keep things to themselves naturally, but they’ll adhere to guidelines, including the expectation to report, if you tell them in advance.
4. Give them alone time.
Give them time to be alone. They need it as much as they need sleep. After a hectic activity, be understanding that introverts need quiet time. It can be a good night’s sleep or just a quick break from work without any interruption. Rest assured that after they’ve recharged, they’ll be ready to work again.
5. Trust that they will think things through when they’re alone.
Introverts use alone time to both recharge and reflect on things. They also think things through when they’re relaxed and aren’t surrounded by too many people. Introverts’ minds are busy when they’re alone, which is the opposite of extroverts. Extroverts tend to be busier internally when they’re with other people.
6. Place them in positions that require more independent activities.
It doesn’t mean introverts aren’t good team members. Most likely, introverts are the most active members in a team, and they often receive less acknowledgment than their extrovert colleagues. As a leader, be aware of this tendency, so you can ask team members about their involvement.
Many introverts are efficient thinkers and exemplary doers. However, not all introverts are people of high quality, just like not all extroverts are excellent workers. As a leader, you owe it to them to accept them as they are. This way, your team will be able to function more effectively and efficiently with both extroverts and introverts running the project in their areas of expertise.