"Do I have to be an extravert to be a good leader?"
"Do I have to be able to walk up to strangers and strike up conversations to be a successful leader?"
My answer to both of the above: no and no! I receive both of the above (or similar) questions all the time. For some reason people who are less outgoing think that if they cannot walk around glad handing people like politicians, that they will never be successful leaders.
Funny thing, I have never had someone ask me “Hey, do I need to dial it down a bit and be less outgoing to be a good leader?”
I believe that hidden in the question “Do I have to be an extravert to be a good leader? “ is the fear that people who are not really outgoing are not good with people. This is simply not true! Your ability to bond with your team is not based upon your ability to be the life of the party. You see, you build your relationships with your team members and your management gradually over time.
You do need to talk to your team. I don’t advocate hiding behind your office door or hiding behind email. Get out and talk to people. Do it gradually and try to do it one-on-one. Be open with people about the fact that you can be more reserved. You can build trust and rapport, just do it in a way that comes more naturally.
I am not promising you that you will never have to present to a larger group. When the time comes for you to speak in public, stand up and do the best job that you can do. The people, who know you, will appreciate you all the more.
If you truly are someone who does not enjoy talking, you could be an excellent listener. If this is you, your associates will learn to appreciate your listening skills. Use them well.
I believe the first step to successful leadership is to know who you are. Understand your strengths and your weaknesses. By the way, being outgoing or not, is not necessarily a strength or a weakness. It is simply part of who you are. If you try to force yourself to be something you are not, you will come across as awkward and insincere. This will damage your ability to be a good leader, because people will be uncomfortable with you.
Remember, you own who you are and you decide who you want to be. There are successful leaders of all types. Once you are comfortable with who you are you can find the environment that is right for you. And that is where you will shine – outgoing or not.
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