Over 150 women have attended the Quietly Powerful Women’s breakfasts over the last month and a half. Many women have said, “I’m glad I’m not alone” as well as “It’s great to know that my introversion / quietness can be a strength.”
Some commented that “quiet” and “powerful” seemed like an oxymoron. It was reinforced by almost half the women who said that they could not think of ANY senior leader who is a quieter woman.
Too often introversion and quietness is seen as a disorder (see Introversion is not a disorder and femininity does not equal weak) or a trait to be fixed. You should see the number of women who have been told to “speak up” and “be more visible”. Or have been sent to assertiveness training so they can correct their quieter nature. While I’m not advocating for quieter/introverted people to go silent, there are many quieter qualities to appreciate and use powerfully.
There are strengths to introversion / quietness when we embrace it fully. These strengths are to be reclaimed by introverts and embraced more by extroverts. These quieter qualities/skills are often overlooked in the workplace such that introverts – who could be good at these skills – don’t always own and use them effectively. I would love for that to change.
Calm presence: When you are relaxed, calm, quiet and present with people, they can feel it. It is particularly valuable when you can bring a calm presence to stressful situations. While not all introverts are calm, it’s a powerful quality when it’s cultivated.
Listening/observing/sensing: When you can pause your busy mind and listen, observe and sense what is going on beyond what is spoken about, you notice more and adapt accordingly. Listening is an under-rated trust building and leadership tool (see Listen – It’s your secret leadership advantage). Sharing what you notice can also add great value.
Asking: With great listening comes great questions. Ask questions that no one else is asking, generate insight through deeper questions, ask with curiosity and build understanding. Questions can be more powerful than statements as it focuses the attention and engages people’s minds.
Synthesising: Use what you’ve heard, observed and sensed to connect the dots. Synthesis of what’s been spoken about allows groups to feel heard, make sense and move forward.
Perspective shifting: Bring people’s attention to another way of looking – if stuck on detail, step back to see the bigger picture; if drowning in problems, ask what they want to achieve. Listen to the pattern of thinking and shift them from time to time.
Deep thinking: Use your natural tendencies for thinking, creativity and problem solving. There is a lot going on in the minds of introverts. It may take some time but the ideas will be well thought through. These ideas could be the seed of innovation or breakthrough for long standing problems.
Writing: Use your reflective qualities and write rather than always trying to speak. It could be a short follow up email, a report or an article, summary of meeting outcomes, or additional perspectives upon reflecting. Thoughtful writing lets people know that you are thinking and engaged.
Leaders who not only appreciate these qualities in others but also develop them within themselves are much more effective than those who stick with the masculine, extroverted qualities. It’s time we broaden our perception about what good leadership looks like. We need more quietly powerful leadership.
What other quieter/introverted qualities or skills are valuable in the workplace and for leaders?