Can introverts excel at project management?

Friday, September 13th, 2013 By Jack Nevison

Inc.com contributor John Brandon once believed that his introverted personality held him back in his leadership roles. He had little interest in socializing with employees, preferring to read alone in a coffee shop rather than "kick back with employees after work."

"I shunned the spotlight and chose introspection instead," Brandon wrote.

There were consequences. One project manager on his team was so disgusted with his leadership style that she threatened to quit. While he was able to convince her to stay, the incident made him think about how his introverted personality affected his effectiveness as a  manager.

After that incident, Brandon wrote about his experience as an introvert and received a number of positive responses from like-minded individuals. It was then that he learned something important.

Management is a learned skill, and your personality is not the deciding factor in how well you lead.

Brandon cited Jim Kouzes, the co-author of a report on leadership.

"Leadership is a set of skills and abilities that are learnable…," Kouzes said. "That's true for extroverts and introverts alike. They each have particular preferences for how they energize themselves, take in information, make decisions, and organize themselves, but both are equally capable of providing exemplary leadership."

Instead of calling on introverts to be as brash as their extroverted counterparts, Kouzes gave Brandon better advice: lead, but in a way that is true to your own style. Brandon says, "I could have accomplished the same goal in my own way. I didn't need to try to be animated or social—I needed to improve my skills. The reason that employee thought I was a terrible boss was mostly due to my lack of communication, which didn't have to be blustery at all—it just had to be consistent."

There are many introverts who are no doubt wondering whether they have what it takes to lead a group. They do. All they need is the will to acquire and practice the skills that all project managers should have.

New Leaf Project Management offers you the opportunity to understand, and begin to practice, critical leadership skills with our two-day program, "Leading Project Teams: The Human Side of Performance." New Leaf also offers affordable PDU credits for your PMP recertification requirements with our online estimating game, QPM.

"PMI," PMP®," and "PMBOK" are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc. All rights reserved.

"QPM" is a registered mark of New Leaf Project Management. All rights reserved.

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