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Self Perception

Some introverted leaders reported struggling with their self image early in their careers. For some it took a while to realise that they needed to use their introvert strengths rather than improve on the "poor extroverts"  they felt themselves to be.


Many introverted leaders only became explicitly aware of their introversion through taking personality tests such as Myers Briggs - and sometimes only on the second or subsequent attempt at that. Even then, they did not necessarily use the information to develop a better understanding of their introversion. As a consequence, some introverted leaders did not develop a significant degree of selfawareness of their introversion until relatively late in their careers.

  • early in their careers, some introverted leaders think that they should behave more like the extroverts around them who appear to be demonstrating more ‘valued’ behaviours: this can create a sense of failure that they are ‘not as good as’ the extroverts

  • introverted leaders’ own self-confidence can be affected by extroverts who seem to be a lot more confident

  • adopting extroverted behaviours is a route that you can choose and may be useful at times, but it comes with a high energy cost and may not bring out your best skills

  • trying to be extrovert sometimes and behaving more naturally at other times can be confusing for colleagues who may perceive this to be inconsistent and/or inauthentic.

What introverted leaders said about the challenges of their Self Perception:


  • "When I did the MBTI I was disappointed to learn that I was an introvert because I had an attitude that introversion was not so good as extroversion.”

  • “For the first ten to fifteen years of my career... I assumed that people were the same and so one used role models who tended to be extroverted and found the world quite foreign although one assumed that this was normal and coped.”

  • “I think I was cruising partly because of my introversion, I find it difficult to influence so I thought leadership and management were difficult so I didn’t do it. The real issue was understanding how to lead as an introvert.”

  • “Because I only recently realised that I am an introvert, I've spent most of my career so far with a clouded understanding of what is the 'real' me. Sometimes I've had enough energy to cover up my natural introversion with extrovert-type behaviour - but when that energy burns up I've then tended to withdraw from things that I've started. I think that my apparent dual-personality in this respect has been quite confusing to other people as well, so that they never quite know where to place me - and perhaps have not trusted me as much as they might.”

  • “I think I spent a lot of time and energy earlier in my career thinking about how I could be more extrovert.”

  • “Overall I think my introversion may have affected my earlier career (in my twenties/early thirties), as it probably contributed to lower levels of confidence and issues around profile & visibility.”

Improving Self-Perception and Self-Awareness:

  • developing an understanding of introversion, perhaps through taking MBTI tests and, importantly, learning what the outcomes mean

  • valuing and embracing introversion, not fighting it

  • talking about introversion with peers can build understanding and contributes to better working relationships

  • learning how to lead as an introvert rather than trying hard to be an extrovert

  • behaving more consistently and authentically to build the trust of colleagues and team members

  • learning how introversion affects your approach to your different job roles

  • recognising the value of introverted behaviours

  • knowing that once introverted leaders understand their introversion and work with it, rather than against it, their confidence tends to improve

  • some introverted leaders choose to work in smaller organisations, or smaller teams, to have a greater chance of being heard especially early in their career.

What introverted leaders said about developing their own Self-Perception and Self-Awareness:

  • “It’s like being left handed. It’s okay to be left handed but you need to know how to use scissors and actually it’s better to get left handed scissors.”

  • “I was already in my mid-thirties when I completed the MBTI for the first time and being able to name, understand, talk about and enjoy being an ‘I’ was rewarding and liberating.”

  • “Now that I know and understand my preferences, I am behaving much more consistently and am perceived as more trustworthy as a result.”

  • “Knowing that I can be different gave me a degree of quiet confidence and helped me frame myself in a way I hadn’t before. Being who I am is the most effective way to be – authenticity is important. Ultimately that makes me a better leader. ”

  • “In the last ten years I would feel my introversion has not been an obstacle, but has actually contributed to my strengths as a leader. Some people may see me as a bit remote, but I develop strong working relationships with those I work with closely.”

  • “The first time I did MBTI I didn’t get it, the facilitator just told me what’s in the book. The second time, the facilitator really brought it alive for me and worked out how I exhibited the behaviours at work and I absolutely got it then.”

  • “I am now much better aware of how unsettling pauses and long periods of silence are for those around me, especially after they have asked questions; how and why I find some meetings, especially those with an extrovert bias or extrovert members, so stressful both at work and socially; my recent better insight into my introversion has made significant improvements to my energy levels and to my ability to boost these - whilst also limiting situations which seem to drain my energy.”

  • “Introversion offers a greater reflective capacity, can be less challenging to an outwardly extrovert leader. The skilful leader will recognise that a team of extroverted personalities can be a battleground of egos and noise.”

  • “I think doing the MBTI has helped. It has made me more tolerant and open to be how I am. It has helped me to stop worrying about only having a few close friendships.”

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