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Introverts—not just extroverts—have the skillsets needed to effectively lead teams and meetings. [Image: Getty Images]

Rightfully earned or not, a common stereotype prevails among many STEM fields—that of the bookish, introverted researcher. Pop culture commonly portrays introverts as wallflowers overshadowed and overpowered by their gregarious opposites. (The particular Sheldon, as opposed to the outspoken Leonard, on the comedy series “Big Bang Theory” comes to mind.)

Yet, according to Georgina Bloomfield of The Institution of Engineering and Technology in the U.K., introverts can be capable and confident leaders, and shouldn’t be overlooked because of a quiet demeanor.

Advantageous, existing strengths

In a 2016 article, titled, “How to be a good leader if you’re an introvert,” Bloomfield suggests ways to elevate your leadership skills in an office and team setting. First, she advises “getting to know your team,” an important step in “breaking the ice with the team you’re leading.” Doing so will create more comfort and understanding of existing group dynamics. And, Bloomfield says, knowing your team can come in handy when it’s time to have “those chats” with employees. Knowing your team helps leaders learn how to manage situations appropriately, and effectively communicate with any given employee.

In such situations, Bloomfield says that it’s also important to recognize and use your strengths. Introverts are often good listeners, and Bloomfield thinks that can be used to one’s advantage, saying, “If you’re a good listener, this is an invaluable skill to have to make you into a good leader.”

Decisive vision

Perhaps predictably, introverts also have a reputation as strong natural analysts and problem solvers. These skills come in handy for leaders—whether they identify as introverts or not—as those in leadership roles need to be able to look toward the horizon and down the pipeline, and how to approach any new developments or changes.

In steering a group’s vision, says Bloomfield, it’s imperative to communicate with peers and colleagues “about how you want to make this vision reality.” Additionally, she adds that making decisions and sticking to them are crucial to showing a steady hand, saying “Some decisions are hard to make and do take time, but if you always to and fro when it comes to making important choices then your authority immediately gets undermined and people may not take you seriously as a manager.”

A sometimes solo endeavor

In an interview with Scientific American, Susan Cain, author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts,” makes a case for the strength and benefits of introverted personalities. Cain believes that even in a team-lead role, introverts should harness their alone time and reap its benefits. After all, she says, “When you’re working in a group, it’s hard to know what you truly think.”

Further, citing research from the University of Pennsylvania, USA, she debunks the myth that introverts aren’t good leaders. According to the research, introverts are more likely to allow talented employees to pursue their own ideas, rather than trying to micromanage and control outcomes. Moreover, introverts tend to be more motivated and dedicated to a larger goal, rather than personal ego or desire for attention. The case for successful introverts is broad, says Cain, observing that “From Darwin to Picasso to Dr. Seuss, our greatest thinkers have often worked in solitude.”