Introverts: How Many Leadership Hats Are You Wearing?

Identifying your roles and how to succeed in each

You have seven primary roles as a leader – strong link, reliable guide, rules champion, bridge builder, composed rock, team advocate, and helicopter pilot. Each is an important function for you to embody. These roles can apply to all leaders, regardless of their personality type, but introverts will find it best to utilize common strengths such as thoughtfulness, resiliency, and loyalty to establish a leadership foundation.

The skills for each of these roles develop over time. Management should not expect leaders to be ready-made for these responsibilities. Certain skills may seem to come naturally, while others take focused work. Still others may never become your strong suit. That is okay. We are all different and the best companies recognize their organization is made from a broad spectrum of leadership skills and styles, meshed together.

1. Strong Link

Picture your team as a chain. The best teams are made of strong links across the chain. Everyone contributes and relies upon each other. A weak link can break the chain. You are part of that chain. You too need to be a strong link.

Every manager has their own job tasks, such as strategic thinking and managing stakeholders, in addition to leading the team. You are the only one that can do these tasks. Many managers get so wrapped up in micro-managing each team member that they ignore their own responsibilities. By doing so, you are not only frustrating your staff, but you are neglecting your own duties. Don’t become a weak link in your own team’s chain.

At the beginning of her career, Jay Artale used to go into meetings and try to effect change but found it akin to cold-calling and couldn’t get anyone to commit. Then she saw how her boss’ manager operated. When he had an idea, he would spend weeks before a critical meeting selling his idea to all the key stakeholders who could get in his way or help him achieve success. As a result, the meeting to effect change became merely a final seal of approval. This stakeholder management was a key role that was critical to the team’s success. This manager was fulfilling his role as a strong link, and he also served as a role model in Jay’s development.

2. Reliable Guide

As a leader, you should be a reliable guide, trusted and accessible as well as transparent and giving of your time and knowledge. Maintain an open-door policy to your staff not only by being available, but by truly listening, taking action, and maintaining confidences. Staff don’t need to see or talk to you every day, but they want to be confident that they can rely on you when they need to. Provide insights into often mysterious corporate processes like annual evaluations, promotion considerations, and career planning. I’m not advocating disclosing corporate secrets, but sharing how these processes work reduces the apprehension in these areas and creates a sense of openness and confidence in your leadership style.

Matt Kingsolver notes that he “find(s) the open door is not always just about time, but about content. That is, it’s important that your team feels it can be open and honest with you without unfair repercussions, that you listen and take action on their ideas.”

This sharing of time and insights extends beyond your team. Forty-five percent of respondents to our Introvert Talent Survey indicated they were mentoring at least one other employee. Be a mentor to others, including newer members of the organization. Form a mentoring circle for introverts. Find ways to share your experience and create a more open environment in your organization. You will benefit as much as others do. Such engagements help you to keep a pulse on a wide array of generational styles and diverse viewpoints, so you don’t get stuck in your ways.

3. Rules Champion

All employees are expected to follow company rules. As a leader and role model, you need to be aware of all the rules and adhere to them every day. This seems obvious and simple, but you probably have a myriad of requirements that are often shared through a thick PowerPoint slide pack or orientation meeting on day one and filed thereafter. You are responsible for knowing the rules and training and implementing these expectations for the whole team. Include expert resources such as corporate human resources, ethics and compliance officers, and legal counsel as needed to decipher unclear circumstances.

Sara Bonario shares, “Passionate people with a strong set of core values will demonstrate these traits… It is just how they show up in the world.” Following these rules is part of the organization’s license to operate, and it is the leader’s role to ensure compliance.

4. Bridge Builder