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The Perceptions of Others

Introverted leaders risk being perceived by others as aloof or uninterested in the views of others. They tend to be inwardly focussed, provate and self-contained and prefer to work things through on their own. Work colleagues may not realise how passionately they care about some issues.


Introverted leaders reported that they struggled with other peoples’ perceptions of their character and skills.

Common misperceptions or limiting perceptions included:

  • being fragile and in need of support

  • not being leadership material

  • being indecisive

  • not fitting the image of the typical leader

  • being remote, distant or difficult to approach

  • being shy

  • being too laid back

  • not being sufficiently gregarious

  • not having an opinion

  • being too sensible, serious

  • taking too long to think about things

  • being too conceptual or ‘academic’

  • having insufficient drive

  • being unsympathetic.

Other have noted that:

  • the tendency to ‘freeze’ in conflict situations can create a perception that introverted leaders are weak or uncaring

  • creating positive first impressions can be particularly challenging as the culture may require one-off spontaneous likeability

  • for those introverted leaders who ‘act extrovert’, the mismatch between this and their ‘authentic’ behaviour can be disconcerting to colleagues.

What introverted leaders said about the challenges of the Perceptions of Others


  • “Others tend to form perceptions which may be incorrect, especially that I may be fragile, or in need of extra support. This is far from true.”

  • “Some people have recorded observations of me as being sensible and serious, aloof. There have been two occasions on which I have been told that I am not the right person for the job because I am not outgoing, gregarious and do not 'fit' the mental picture of the person required for the job. My desire to think new issues through carefully, to reflect and draw connections has been viewed as not helpful - particularly by those who have got their head around the issue and want early resolution.”

  • “It can be very difficult to get your voice heard and to have time to reflect and then respond. It can be perceived that you are not decisive or worse, not controlling situations.”

  • “I can appear remote or unapproachable to those who do not know me; people often apologise for asking for information or assistance which I'm pleased to give.”

  • “I understand that other leaders with extrovert tendencies may view me as shy and a bit of an easy touch, however sometimes this suits me as it’s very easy to surpass and further exceed their expectations. Sometimes though, I worry about the first impression or lasting impact I've had on someone - especially in a networking environment.”

  • “Initially senior managers who had more extrovert personalities in my own team believed I might not have the necessary leadership qualities to turn round a failing department.”

  • “I have ended up with fairly senior roles, but I have little doubt that it takes other people some time to recognise what I am able to bring to the role.”

  • “Negatively I have been perceived as not ready for a leadership role which, in my third successful year of leadership has not proved to be the case.”

  • “Because I am an experienced public speaker and, in most feedback, a good one it is assumed that I am a naturally sociable human being and will also be good in small group work. This is misleading and can lead to disappointment.”

Positive approaches to Managing the Perceptions of Others


Introverted leaders described how they manage or counteract some of the perceptions of others:

  • gaining credit by exceeding expectations

  • recognising that positive perceptions may include being:

    • hard-working and reliable

    • a safe pair of hands

    • someone who gets things done

    • someone who resolves problems

    • thoughtful and genuine

    • calm in a crisis

    • interested and supportive

  • developing confidence by improving your understanding of issues - developing ‘expertise’

  • greeting people when you see them as a quick way to create a positive impression

  • being authentic, honest and able to laugh at yourself

  • responding after meetings with written thoughts

  • staying visible by sharing or reinforcing the contributions of colleagues

  • adopting extrovert behaviours can sometimes result in a ‘quick win’ but is often unsustainable longer term.

What introverted leaders said about how they Manage the Perceptions of Others

  • “People respond well to my 'authentic' leadership style that is seen as thoughtful and 'genuine'. People are more open and less-defensive given this style.”

  • “I do management by walking about. I make sure that I say something/greet people when/wherever I see them. I am positive and cheerful and that is what people see.”

  • “Putting on the outward front of being thrusting, capable and achieving can be trying at times and, over time, I accepted and adopted the approach of just being myself. At least I didn't give the impression (I hope) of being a poseur!”

  • “I have been working on communicating more clearly with my own team and those that I work with, for example peers - in terms of verbalising my thought processes.”

  • “My interaction on social media was slowed down because of my worry about how others would perceive my messages. I eventually took to sending re-tweets (forwarding messages from others) as part of staying interactive.”

  • “Honesty and an ability to laugh at yourself take you a long way.”

  • “Whilst I am capable of ‘extroversion’, it tends to be in short bursts and something that I have judged to be necessary either in advance or faced with certain scenarios.”

  • “I have raised my profile and that of my employer significantly within the local and wider community...and enjoyed doing it.”

  • “I am at ease listening, reflecting and holding silence. Introversion is not the only component but it helps to establish that as an approach. So people can appreciate me as unconditional, supportive, thoughtful and interested.”

  • “I have been perceived as giving in too much to more extrovert members of staff which is not the case. You need to decide which battles are worth fighting.”

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