What do Apple CEO Tim Cook, Warren Buffet, Condoleezza Rice and Steven Spielberg have in common?
They are all introverts—highly effective quiet influencers—who use their natural strengths to make a big difference without making a lot of noise. Finally, we’re realizing there’s more than one way to have a say in today’s shifting workplace. In fact, the following business trends indicate that the introvert’s time has come:
1. Flattened organizations. Gone are the days when decisions were passed up the hierarchical ladder. Now there are many paths to a decision, which opens up all kinds of space for different types of influence—including the quiet kind.
2. Global businesses. Traditional extroverted approaches may work well in U.S.-centric organizational cultures, but leaders with more reflective, low-key influencing styles will be much more effective in many other regions of the world, such as Asia.
3. Virtual activity. Introverts have been drawn to social media because it lets them use their strengths and better manage their communication. Quiet influencers, who have already invested in learning and using social media, are poised to affect tomorrow’s change more quickly than influencers who have ignored these technologies.
4. Heightened competition. Companies are seeking suppliers and employees who bring fresh, innovative approaches. The truth is, extrovert-centric self-promotion and loud persuasion are passé. Today, people stand out from the crowd if they have a knack for building up others and are committed to listening instead of talking.
RELATED: How to Conquer Your Leadership Blindspots
The Hard Truth for Introverts
Although there's a cultural shift in today's business, the reality is that introverts are continually asked to adapt to an extrovert-centric workplace that rewards being out there and on stage. Organizational cultures support those who talk about their accomplishments, who spend more time out and about networking instead of alone deep in thought, and who make sure they are the first to get their ideas heard.
The truth is, influence is not about getting people to come to see things our way, but about learning from others and negotiating a shared solution. This approach is well suited to the introvert temperament. It involves patience, planning and perseverance. If we all think the only way to get things done is to shout louder and take up more center-stage space, we’ll miss the opportunities to listen, learn and respond thoughtfully.
Introverts can be highly effective influencers when they stop trying to act like extroverts and instead make the most of their natural strengths. Here are six strengths they embrace:
1. Take quiet time. Introverts prioritize periods of solitude that provides them with a powerful source of creativity and self-awareness.
RELATED: One Skill Most Leaders Lack
2. Prepare. Introverts increase their confidence to influence others by increasing their knowledge, creating a strategy and rehearsing.
3. Listen. This innate introvert talent helps quiet introverts establish rapport and mutual understanding—especially when they observe body language, ask questions and serve as a sounding board for others.
4. Have focused conversations. Introverts excel at the serious, purpose-driven, one-on-one or small group interactions vital for problem solving, working through conflicts and winning people over.
5. Write. Introverts use this skill to influence others through deep, authentic, well-developed arguments that motivate others to action.
6. Use social media thoughtfully. Introverts naturally use social media in a thoughtful and more effective way to develop and grow relationships, achieve visibility, and mobilize people—even those far across the globe.
If we are open to building our influencing toolbox through conscious practice, we can perfect core skills, develop heightened sensibilities and bump up confidence to influence all kinds of people and situations. As a result, we will greatly enhance our influencing success rate by embracing an alternative to traditionally western “Type A” view of interactions. So why not take a walk on the quiet side and be the new face of business?
Read more leadership and management articles.
Jennifer Kahnweiler is a workplace and careers expert, international speaker and executive coach whose clients include General Electric Co., AT&T Inc., the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and NASA. Her new book, Quiet Influence: The Introvert’s Guide to Making a Difference, follows her 2009 hit, The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength. For more information, visit www.jenniferkahnweiler.com.