Quietly confident: why introverts can be great leaders

A new book highlights how offices are often biased towards extroverts and shows how introverted women can get ahead by being themselves.



Are you a bit of an introvert and has it disadvantaged you in the workplace? A new book argues that it needn’t and that many practices at work are geared towards extroverts’ strengths and don’t encourage introverts to progress.

Quietly visible by coach Carol Stewart says introverts are often forced to act in a way that means they are unable to be themselves, something that puts a lot of stress on them and can undermine their confidence.

Stewart says the book is about helping women who are introverted, as she is, to feel proud of themselves and accept who they are.

The book is described as “a guide for you if you are an introverted woman who wants to be visible in what you do, and wants to lead with influence and impact, without having to change who you are”.

Stewart argues that set-ups like open plan offices and networking and brainstorming activities favour extroverts and that bias against introverts and stereotypes about them, such as that they are shy, are widespread.


The book coaches women in how to be themselves in an environment that doesn’t favour them. For instance, she says that introverts tend to prefer to observe and reflect before making a comment in meetings. How do they get around this? Stewart suggests that preparation is all. That may mean connecting with people in the meeting beforehand, insist on seeing an agenda beforehand, commenting that you think interesting points have been raised and that you wish to reflect on them more and asking thought-provoking questions in meetings instead of giving quick answers.

For employers, she suggests looking at the way meetings are conducted and on who is excluded by the typical format where the loudest voice is most likely to be heard. Facilitation is one method – getting people to write their thoughts down about a given topic before a meeting and then sharing them as a means of kicking off discussions in a more balanced way.

Self awareness

The book also contains a strong plea for self acceptance, saying that introverts are often treated as second rate due to bias. To overcome this requires self awareness, for instance, through journaling, about what introversion is and isn’t and about what makes extroverts tick, as well as self management, including management of work environments that make you uncomfortable, such as open plan offices.

To ensure you don’t get passed over for promotion, Stewart recommends developing a vision and plan, including getting a sponsor to sing your praises, networking in a way that works for you, for instance, focusing on quality conversations rather than quantity and asking open questions, using social networks and demonstrating your thought leadership through writing.

There is also advice for introverts on how to lead and be true to yourself and how to adapt to different situations. The important thing is to be yourself and be proud of who you are, says Stewart. The alternative is not a recipe for long-term career success or happiness.

She states: “When we try to be something that we’re not, we can only keep the pretence up for so long before it starts to take its toll on us.”

*Quietly visible: leading with influence and impact as an introverted woman is published by Filament Publishing, price 14.99. 

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