(Even though you may not believe it)
By Dr. Ty Belknap, author of Leadership for Introverts
Yes, you are!
Chant it, use it as an affirmation. Repeat over and over,
“I am a leader; I am a leader!”
Now, that makes you feel much more like a leader, doesn’t it? Not!
But the truth is that you really are a leader. John Maxwell has written many books on leadership and his definition is:
Leadership is influence.
So, if you have ever influenced anyone, you have shown leadership skills (I’ll bet that did make you feel better).
I'm so excited to introduce Dr. Ty Belknap, this week's guest blogger for Beyond Introversion. Dr. Ty is a die-hard introvert who has embraced his talents to excel as a marketer, business owner, and best-selling author! Ty has such a great approach to sharing his experiences to empower introverts everywhere. -Steve Friedman
The question is: Are you leading on purpose or on accident?
Being an introvert, I would be willing to say that your leadership to date has mostly been on accident. I mean, who would want to listen to a person that doesn’t like to talk, right?
The answer is: Everyone - if you have something to say that is worth listening to. And you do.
You see, every introvert has a superpower.
We do not think of it as a superpower, but it is true: We listen.
I have never had a lot of friends, which is common for introverts. I usually have 3-5 friends, and I am usually closer to one of them than the rest. In my 20’s, my best friend and I hung out all the time. We were talking one day while my friend was feeling down; he said that nobody knew him. I, not thinking, said that I knew him, and he challenged me to prove it.
So, I happily blurted out everything that I had learned about him over the last several years. When I got done, he said: “You know everything about me. And I don’t know you at all.”
That was the first time I realized the superpower of all introverts. I had spent a lot of our time together listening to what he did (and didn’t) say, so I knew a lot about him. And yes, he was an extrovert (although I didn’t know the words “introvert” and “extrovert” at the time).
Extroverts are good at socializing and small talk. I can’t remember how many times I would be at a social event and envy the people who were so good at just chatting away about nothing at all. But as I got older, I realized that they really were indeed chatting about nothing. How boring.
Have you ever noticed that sometimes you start talking and, before you know it, you’ve been talking about a subject for 15-20 minutes straight? You may have been in a conversation with one or two other people, and the words just kept coming out of your mouth like magic.
That’s because you knew what you were talking about.
I don’t think most introverts are shy. Yes, there are shy introverts, but I don’t think that applies to most of us. This is a personal opinion, but I think most introverts just don’t like talking unless they know something about the subject. And the more they know, the more they talk.
For instance, I have family members that are car fanatics. They know the make and model of almost every car, and they can tell you the engine size and seat belt type of most models by year. I’m not a car person, so I can barely keep up with their conversations.
But I’m a techy nerd. I was a network engineer for Compaq and Microsoft in the past before I started my SEO (search engine optimization) business, so I can talk with the best about computers.
And I’m guessing the same goes for you. Your friends probably don’t think of you as an introvert because you talk to them (about subjects you know).
Advice from the good Dr.
Recognize when you talk more, and the subjects you talk about. Be mindful of conversations that spark your interest. One of the qualities of a great leader is to know when you should be talking and when you should hand the “mic” off to someone else.
Yes, you should have that “someone else” in your life, especially if you are an entrepreneur. Just think of the two biggest tech companies in the world right now. Microsoft was founded by Bill Gates (introvert) and Paul Allen (extrovert). Apple had Steve Wozniak (introvert) and Steve Jobs (extrovert).
But even if you are not in business for yourself, having an extrovert friend (or spouse) can be an exceptionally good thing.
It is true that opposites attract, and for particularly good reason: They compliment each other. My wife is a complete extrovert. And I am a complete introvert. She helps me get out of my shell and be social every once in a while, (which we introverts need) and I help her be more at peace when she is by herself (which some extroverts need).
So, stretch your introverted leadership skills, and see what friendships you can cultivate with an extrovert or two. Chances are, you know more about them than they do about you.