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Introverted leaders like to focus their thoughts before speaking; their unique strength often lies in synthesising information. Therefore, they may miss opportunities to contribute to meetings, especially those which are dominated by extroverts.


  • introverted leaders tend to travel a long way in their thinking relatively quickly and it can be hard to communicate their thoughts effectively to others, particularly in meetings

  • introverted leaders can find it particularly challenging to come up with a quick response when they would more naturally take time to consider and formulate a response

  • perceptions of introverted leaders during meetings can be lowered by the impression that they are not contributing

  • when introverted leaders are quiet at meetings it can be interpreted that they are ‘controlling’ or that they have a hidden agenda

  • decisions being made too quickly or without full consideration of the facts can be frustrating and stressful for the introverted leader

  • meetings with large numbers of people can be particularly challenging and draining on energy levels.

What introverted leaders said about the challenges of Meetings


  • “I intensely dislike meetings or big groups.”

  • “Initially, I experienced a lack of confidence associated with not being able to find my voice and contribute to large group meetings... I felt frustrated that I often had useful thoughts about the issues being discussed but I couldn't connect them with my mouth quickly enough to contribute them. The group conversations moved too quickly for me and a few people who were more articulate than me frequently dominated. This lead to a perception that I had nothing to offer. Sometimes, I would find my voice towards the end of a discussion and contribute a view or suggestion that appeared to unlock a situation - which in turn led to a perception that I had been deliberately holding back and should have been more helpful at an earlier stage in the discussion.”

  • “I tend to find I get easily over-talked. I will be the one that shuts up and the volume and tone of my voice doesn’t allow me to be heard.”

  • “There was a big event... I was the most junior person there. There was a very brisk discussion, I almost felt tortured wanting to say things. Finally, I managed to get to say something about ten minutes before the end. The Chair, [a senior colleague] said “Thank God, I thought you were never going to speak”. I knew he was expecting me to speak and that made it worse. As Chairman of the meeting he could have invited me in, he could have said “I would like to hear from…”. I was burning to say things. I sometimes wonder if he would have let that meeting finish without me saying anything.”

  • “I think Boards are typically made up of certain types of extroverts and they all repeat each other: as someone once said “everything that needs to be said has already been said but not everybody has yet said it.””

  • “I have felt at my most uncomfortable and stressed at times when extroverts have dominated the scene and have behaved in what seem to me to be chaotic, thoughtless, domineering and excluding ways. This isn't just about 'lots of people', it's about the type of person that they are. If several introverts are in a room and there is even one extrovert displaying typical extrovert behaviour, the extrovert can completely shift the process and progress of discussion. I find this very stressful. If the situation is reversed, and I am one introvert is in a room of extroverts, then it takes a huge amount of effort, extremely clear communication and a great sense of timing for me to make a positive contribution to the discussion.”

Positive Approaches to Managing Contributions to Meetings:

  • building in thinking time before meetings to allow your thoughts to take shape - and putting this time in your calendar, even if you disguise it as something else

  • preparing well for the meeting: perhaps identifying a couple of key points you want to make, or some constructive challenges, and anticipating any questions or reactions

  • speaking early to get your voice heard, perhaps with a simple question

  • reducing the sense of urgency to contribute early in meetings

  • valuing your own ability to observe, listen and reflect

  • using questions to develop clarity

  • visualising yourself making a contribution

  • if chairing, introducing a variety of discussion methods, perhaps including paired discussions

  • being aware of other introverts’ need for time to think

  • if chairing a meeting, using a ‘lighthouse person’ or observer, to feed back to members how the meeting seems to be going

  • recognising the value of being able to express a considered view, even if it is towards the end of the meeting

  • speaking at the end of a meeting to summarise and synthesise what has been discussed

  • asking for time to reflect on questions and issues and getting back to people within an agreed time limit

  • when you feel you have given a poor response ‘on the spot’, having the courage to go back to the chair (or whoever) with a more considered response.

What introverted leaders said about how they manage their contribution to Meetings:

  • “I used to hate chairing meetings but doing the preparation and so on gives me confidence and that also makes me a better chair.”

  • “Once my confidence developed, I learnt how to place an effective and constructive challenge. This has been valued by Board colleagues who often look to me as a strong voice who doesn't get involved in the endless 'chatter' at meetings but who often poses a challenge to those who are driving the conversation - and therefore the decision making and subsequent actions.”

  • “Speaking early at a meeting to get my voice into the room...often just a simple question helps me do this. Using questions that help develop clarity and insights helps to keep me involved in the conversation until I'm ready to offer a reflection, view or opinion. Valuing the power of my inquiry skills and using them to good effect. Quietness allows me to observe and listen when others are busy talking. Combining these two elements has enabled me to be active throughout a group conversation and develop a reputation for having powerful and useful reflective skills that often enable me to bring clarity of thinking to a situation.”

  • “I have learnt how to deal with my preferred style, for example, when chairing meetings I use techniques that include paired discussion rather than just relying on conversation going round the table. I also use a lighthouse person who observes so that the chair takes breaks and has time with the lighthouse person who then can say whether individuals are not getting the chance to have their say.”

  • “I tend to be one of the last to enter the debate but now don't feel inhibited or anxious - it has become a style of behaviour I feel comfortable with and gives me the opportunity to gauge where the debate is at and where I can make most impact. I use the the time to listen and can summarise where the debate has got to. I don't feel uncomfortable in this role at all.”

  • “I've watched my Chief Executive and Financial Director whom I would assess as introverted leaders. They appear to me to be very considered in their responses and this wins them much credibility.”

  • “Because I can listen, synthesise and analyse, my presence at the flip chart is valued for being able to draw together the threads of a discussion to make succinct points. Last time this happened I fed back to the plenary and one of my colleagues said "Well that's exactly what we discussed but it didn't sound as powerful as that when we talking around it!"

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