Introverts have always been with us, even though the term was not popularized until the 20th century by Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist Carl Jung. His ideas on extroversion and introversion have been incorporated into the popular Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the word introvert has become part of everyday language.
According to Susan Cain in her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, introverts favor their own mental life. Their energy rises in reflection and diminishes during interaction. They are the employees in your organization who find more pleasure in front of their computers, working, reading, and composing.
Their vacations find them fishing or taking part in other solitary forms of relaxation and escape. In their free time, they engage in other solitary activities closer to home, if not at home. In terms of Leadership Attraction Powers, they exhibit a great degree of Reflection.
Introverts are your artists, engineers, and inventors. They may pass on company get-togethers, and when they show, you’re likely to find them alone, disengaged, or uncomfortably failing to make small talk. They may choose other introverts as companions at work.
When they work, they focus fiercely on a one activity at a time and stick with it until they finish. Introverts tend to analyze what they will say before they speak. Often overwhelmed and shut down by people who say whatever comes into their heads or speak before they think, they prefer to share their ideas when they are asked.
Cain laments that our culture becomes more and more commercial and rewards the loudest among us. She points out that our present-day Culture of Personality has replaced a Culture of Character. She holds up Abraham Lincoln as an icon of our lost, more contemplative culture.
Rather than disparage extroverts, Cain reminds readers of the value of introverts and the important role they play in our organizations. I’ve listed eight work habits that make introverts very valuable to organizations.
On the other side of the equation, keep in mind that introverts can be more fragile. They may become upset and less productive if their work processes are interrupted too often or modified too drastically.
Cain encourages leaders to practice patience with introverts, but at the same time to challenge them to help make it comfortable for them to come out, share their ideas, and to learn from interaction as well as to be heard.
In Eight Ways For Introverts To Shine At Work, Christina Park marks Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Marissa Mayer—all powerful leaders—as introverts. Park offers tips for introverts. I’ve used her advice and other research to list ways you as a leader can value your introverts and make the most of what they have to offer.