How to excel as an introverted leader

Author Carol Stewart says having strategies to overcome challenges and be at your best will help introverted headteachers stay strong at work

As a headteacher and a woman who is introverted, it is challenging contending with environments better suited to your extroverted colleagues on top of your already demanding role.

Having strategies to deal with these challenges and knowing how to be at your optimal will help you to stay strong in your already successful career.

Develop your self-awareness

As a leader, self-awareness is crucial. It helps you see what impact you have on others and how to get the best from them.

When it comes to managing conflict and tackling staffing issues, self-awareness enables you to better understand why people behave the way they do so you can modify your behaviour and communications to get the best outcome.

Regularly self-reflecting on why you respond to situations the way you do and why others behave the way they do towards you will increase your self-awareness. Getting 360° feedback will help you to see yourself through the eyes of others.

Play to your strengths

People who utilise their strengths are naturally more confident, more motivated and more likely to be in flow. When we are in flow we are at our best, so play to your strengths.

Listening forms a major part of our communication and introverts are well known for being good listeners.

People like to feel that they are heard. Listening in this way plays a key part in being influential so utilise this strength.

Identify your strengths and utilise them at work. However, a word of caution, don’t overuse them because they can become weaknesses if you neglect other important areas of responsibility.

Be adaptable

All leaders need to be able to adapt to different environments and situations. Self-awareness makes it easier for you to identify when you need to adapt.

Being adaptable doesn’t mean that you put on a persona and pretend to be something you’re not. It’s about being your authentic self, whilst recognising situations where you need to step out of your comfort zone or modify your behaviour for the greater good.

Manage your energy

Your role requires you to spend lengthy periods in overly stimulating environments so be mindful of the impact to your energy.

Extroverts are energised by being around other people whereas spending too long in such situations can be draining for introverts. When we are drained of energy it is harder to remain engaged with others and be upbeat.

Introverts like to recharge by going inwards and being on their own, but this isn’t possible if you have a busy day ahead.

Be aware of what drains your energy and plan around it. For example, if you have a morning of heavy meetings, keep your diary light in the afternoon. If this isn’t possible, make sure you take a break and get some fresh air.

You set the tone

Introverts typically like to think and reflect before making a decision, but we’ve come to expect everything to be instant, which isn’t always a good thing. As headteacher, make others aware of your preferences and you be the one to set the tone.

Let people know if they want you to give your best, they need to give you sufficient time. Let them know your initial thoughts, but for a well-informed decision, you will get back to them.

Make sure you don’t receive agendas for meetings last minute. This gives you time to go through them and do your thinking beforehand. This not only helps you to be at your best in meetings, but also helps the other introverts on your leadership team.

As a headteacher your role is demanding and it’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of it all, losing sight of how to be at your optimal as a leader. Make regular time for self-reflection and it becomes easier for you to identify how to lead at your best.

Known as the coach for high-achieving introverted women, Carol Stewart is an executive, career and business coach and founder of Abounding Solutions, with over 25 years’ coaching and leadership experience.

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