You need a lot of skills to escape the 9 to 5 grind and become a successful entrepreneur. Some of the essential abilities you’ll want to develop before you take a leap of faith to start your own business are momentum, execution, and strong leadership skills. While there are some entrepreneurs who are naturally talented in these areas, many have to acquire these proficiencies over time. I was able to learn how to be a better leader through self-awareness and I want to share some of the tricks and tips I’ve learned.
Yes Introverts Can Become Strong Leaders Too!
Our society has an annoying stereotype that the strongest and best leaders are all extroverts. Of course there are many great extroverted leaders, but there are also a lot of fantastic introverted leaders too. Leadership is a skill that I’ve had to develop over time because it didn’t come to me naturally. I’m calm and rather quiet by nature, so it took a while for me to be confident enough to speak up and get my voice heard in a lot of situations. I never even imagined myself working in any type of management or leadership role for the longest time.
But even peace and quiet loving introverts like you and I can grow into successful leaders (<– I encourage you to watch the video in this post.) Although I prefer having alone time and being in zen-like places, I’ve come to embrace the sounds and output of collaboration and communication at work. An advantage of being an introverted leader is you totally understand the benefits of having time to think, analyze, and create when working alone. That makes you much less likely to turn into an aggressive and overbearing micromanager that your team and staff will despise!
Gain Confidence As A Leader By Utilizing Your Strengths First
One of the easiest ways to start gaining confidence if you want to learn how to be a better leader is to make a list of all of your strengths. Then rank them by the highest relevance to your current job or situation. A top strength of mine is organization, which is a skill that business owners and employees really can’t afford to overlook.
I gained confidence as a leader by using my strength in organizational skills as a stepping stone. There were a lot of areas at work that were disorganized and inefficient so I started going to my managers every month with my own ideas for improving things. They liked my initiative and gave me the freedom to move forward and make a bunch of changes. This got my confidence up, raised my motivation, and enabled me to get to know my managers a lot better.
They also encouraged me to give organizational tips, guidance, and establish protocols with some of my colleagues who needed help staying organized. That was how I started getting my feet wet as a mentor. Then I began leading projects and coaching others on more and more topics and skills. This really paved my career path into a management role.
Look Within And Grow Your Leadership Through Self-Awareness
Even though it may seem weird to think about being in a relationship with yourself, it’s quite an important one to pay attention to. Take the time to self-reflect and soak in the feedback people are giving you on a regular basis. Think about how other people’s opinions and actions make you feel and react. Then try to identify where your feelings come from and if you’ve ever made someone else feel that same way.
For example, if you get frustrated when someone interrupts you, take a step back and figure out when was the last time you did that to someone else. If you remember doing that recently, add that to your list of weaknesses that you want to work on. You certainly don’t want your teammates or staff to get frustrated if you did that to them.
This is something I actually caught myself doing in the past and had to work on fixing. I didn’t do it often, but I’m glad I was able to realize that I had a bad habit of interrupting my coworkers when I was really opinionated about something. To keep myself from speaking out too soon, I started jotting down keywords while listening. These little notes let me remember all of the points I wanted to contest after the speaker was done, and also distracted me from the sudden urge to interrupt them.
You may not want to admit it, but in reality it’s pretty easy to say one thing and do another. But successful leaders can’t survive if they are hypocritical. Nobody respects or looks up to hypocrites or fraudsters.
You cannot be a leader, and ask other people to follow you, unless you know how to follow, too. – Sam Rayburn
Set goals and prioritize continually
Another tip on how to be a better leader through self-awareness is to figure out all of the things that make you feel stressed, sad, angry, and frustrated. Then formulate a plan to remove that negativity from your life and thoughts piece by piece. Leaders need to inspire and motivate, which comes from positivity and also being a happy and supportive person.
Don’t beat yourself up though if you find yourself stressed and frustrated occasionally. Leaders have to deal with difficult issues all the time that can stir up stress and other emotions. And of course no one is perfect. They key though is to put together an action plan to mitigate the causes of these stresses, learn from your mistakes, keep an open mind, and be willing to work on your own flaws and weaknesses.
Also strive to be surrounded by people who are encouraging, supportive, and comfortable enough to tell you their opinions and point out areas where you can improve. In turn, we can do the same for them.
Best Leadership Books
There are always new things we experiment with and apply to improve our leadership skills. If you want to learn more tips on how to be a better leader check out these popular leadership books:
Leadership Is an Art
The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership
The Diary of a West Point Cadet: Captivating and Hilarious Stories for Developing the Leader Within You
The Leadership Moment: Nine True Stories of Triumph and Disaster and Their Lessons for Us All
Untemplaters, how would you rate your leaderships skills? Has leading always come naturally to you or did you have to develop confidence and skills over time? What’s your advice on how to be a better leader through self-awareness or other means?
Copyright 2013. Original content and photography authorized only to appear on Untemplater.com. Thank you for reading!
Buck Inspire says
Fellow introvert reporting in! A good leader gets the most out of his team and leads by example. He or she also helps them grow personally and professionally. I highly recommend Tony Hsieh’s, CEO of Zappos, Delivering Happiness. Great post!
John S @ Frugal Rules says
Good post! As a fellow introvert I can attest to the fact that you can learn and develop that leadership trait. It may not be easy at times, but like you said, it does require self reflection. My wife and I run our own business and I am so glad that I have been able to learn leadership and be able to reflect on things regularly because that’s vital to having a successful business.
Thanks John! That’s neat you run your own business together. I think leadership is especially hard in the beginning for introverts. It can seem so overwhelming and uncomfortable. So breaking things down and looking within can really help.
Edward Antrobus says
I think that the leadership positions that introverts like myself would do best at are ones where they are mostly interacting one on one. If I get promoted next year (which they seem to be interested in doing and already starting to get the ball rolling on it), then I’ll be managing teams up to a dozen or two in size. But I would still only be dealing with one or maybe two at a time.
Yes that’s a good way to approach it and utilize your skills. I’ve had to lead large groups before, but I definitely prefer smaller groups or working one on one. It helps you get to know people better and delegate tasks using their particular strengths.
Financial Samurai says
Leadership is often times a thankless job that doesn’t get properly rewarded. The best leaders are ones who listen, involve, execute, and keep their promises. Everyone has some sort of leadership skills and attributes. We should probably do more to find the leader within.
Yeah sadly that’s often true about it being a thankless job – or at least a job that isn’t often complimented on. It’s hard being the one having to coach and discipline others all the time, which I have to do a lot. But even though the people who report to me don’t really say thank you, I soak in their indirect appreciation by watching them grow and get better at their jobs and as individuals, and them coming to me for help. I had a great employee of mine leave recently who was always rather quiet, but he had a lot of kind things to say in our last few conversations. The sincerity in his words when he said how thankful he was for everything meant quite a lot. Sigh. Too bad he had to leave!
My Financial Independence Journey says
Leadership can be learned. A lot of career leadership is being organized and responsible enough to manage a project and timelines. And learning how to push peers, bosses, and vendors to completion. Over the last year or so at my job I’ve been forced to be a leader for a lot of things, which is about as far from my comfort zone as you can get. But I’ve been watching how others effectively manage and working to emulate them. I like to think that I’ve grown at least a little bit as a leader in the time that I’ve been here.
That’s fantastic you’ve been working hard at developing your leadership skills and gaining more confidence! Sometimes we have to be forced out of our comfort zones in order to grow and realize our further potential. Nice job, keep it up!
If you have a plan to to either have your own business or just go up the career ladder, you should gain the particular experience you need. You should always be ready for your next step in life. You need a plan and you need to work it. I tell my children to get the experience so you are ready for that next opportunity or promotion.
Planning and gaining experience make such a difference. It can be hard to stay focused and motivated especially these days when there are so many distractions (how horrible are those facebook home commercials btw) but it’s necessary to get ahead.
Bobby @ Ban Excuses says
Great article Sydney! Thanks for pointing me to that TED talk, it is really inspiring when other introverts are succeeding in life. The world often tries to make everyone fit into the same little box, and that just doesn’t work for some people. Being aware of your own mistakes is an important point, and one that we should all work on, regardless of if we are in a leadership position or not.
Also, I’ve had other recommendations to read The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership before, but never had the chance. May just have to check that out now.
Thanks Bobby! I hope schools become more adapting to introverted students too. I totally agree with Susan Cain about stopping the madness of group work!
Let me know how you like the book if you get to it. It’s a great read.