Make us your home page

Introverts do succeed in executive positions

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a common personality assessment tool, estimates that about half the U.S. population consists of introverts and about four in 10 top executives are introverts. Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Steven Spielberg, Andrea Jung, Charles Schwab and Brenda Barnes come to mind. In Jennifer Kahnweiler's book, The Introverted Leader, she notes that introverted individuals are excellent leaders for a number of reasons. Here are a few.

• They think about things, then share their thoughts. They are often great listeners who use what they have heard to make a comment, which can move the group forward.

• They appear calm and prepared. During stressful times, it is critical to have a leader who displays calm confidence.

• They are usually comfortable with writing down their thoughts and can effectively share these via e-mail and online social networking tools.

• They seek depth over breadth and really try to dig deep into issues and ideas before moving on to new ones.


Introverts might be described as lacking social skills, being withdrawn, loners, unfriendly or shy. In her book, Self-Promotion for Introverts, Nancy Ancowitz explains that it is important for introverts to increase their visibility at work to get credit for their ideas and to be given the opportunities for higher-level positions (if that's what they want). Based on her ideas and advice I have given to introverts aspiring to leadership positions, here are some tips:


• Keep a file of your accomplishments throughout the year. Throw in letters from clients or colleagues, performance feedback and awards. Organize these data so that you can mention them when you have an important meeting with a superior.

• Practice stating your accomplishments with a coach or mentor to get feedback.

Attendance, participation

• Make sure you are periodically on the agenda at meetings. Don't feel you have to make as many comments as extroverts. Offer one or two key points. Prepare for the meetings and the points you will raise.

• After meetings and within a day or two, send out followup e-mails to note your points and contributions and to acknowledge those raised by others.


• Networking can be very stressful, but important. Pick events where you might know a few people or will feel welcome.

• Once you are there, take a few deep breaths to calm down. Everyone is not watching you. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Avoid caffeine, which can make you feel more anxious.

• Have specific goals for each networking event. Perhaps it will be to meet two new people or share your business card with three individuals.

• Ask questions and listen to other people, and share a few things about yourself, maybe your hobbies or interests. People relate better to individuals who share something about themselves. They also remember those people better.

Make sure you recharge

• Be careful not to overschedule yourself.

• Use downtime to rest. Maybe this occurs on your commute or nights or weekends.

• Allow time to prepare for meetings, speeches, etc. Don't let others "steal" your reflection time.

Joyce E.A. Russell is the director of the Executive Coaching and Leadership Development Program at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business. She is a licensed industrial and organizational psychologist and has more than 25 years of experience coaching executives and consulting on leadership and career management.

Introverts do succeed in executive positions 03/22/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 22, 2011 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Special to the Washington Post.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Last steel beam marks construction milestone for Tom and Mary James' museum


    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom and Mary James on Wednesday signed their names to the last steel beam framing the 105-ton stone mesa that will be built at the entrance of the museum that bears their name: the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art.

    The topping-out ceremony of the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art was held Wednesday morning in downtown St. Petersburg. Mary James (from left), husband Tom and Mayor Rick Kriseman signed the final beam before it was put into place. When finished, the $55 million museum at 100 Central Ave. will hold up to 500 pieces of the couple's 3,000-piece art collection. [Courtesy of James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art]
  2. Heights Public Market to host two Tampa Bay food trucks


    TAMPA — The Heights Public Market announced the first two food trucks for its "rotating stall," which will feature new restaurants every four months. Surf and Turf and Empamamas will be rolled out first.

    Heights Public Market is opening this summer inside the Tampa Armature Works building.
[SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times file photo]

  3. Author Randy Wayne White could open St. Pete's biggest restaurant on the pier

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — The story begins with Yucatan shrimp.

    St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, pilot Mark Futch, Boca Grande, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, and author and businessman Randy Wayne White,  Sanibel, exit a Maule Super Rocket seaplane after taking a fight around Tampa Bay off the St. Petersburg waterfront, 6/28/17.  White and his business partners are in negotiations with the City of St. Petersburg to build a fourth Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille on the approach to the St. Petersburg Pier with a second event space on the pier according to White. The group met near Spa Beach after a ground breaking ceremony for the new pier. "We want to have our business open by the time the pier opens," said White. Other Dr. Ford restaurants are located on Sanibel, Captiva and Ft. Myers Beach. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
  4. Guilty plea for WellCare Health Plans former counsel Thaddeus Bereday


    Former WellCare Health Plans general counsel Thaddeus M.S. Bereday pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the Florida Medicaid program, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set, acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District …

    WellCare Health Plans former general counsel Thaddeus M.S. Bereday, pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the Florida Medicaid program, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set, acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District of Florida stated Wednesday. [LinkedIn handout]
  5. DOT shows alternatives to former Tampa Bay Express toll lanes


    TAMPA — State transportation officials are evaluating at least a half-dozen alternatives to the controversial Tampa Bay interstate plan that they will workshop with the community over the next 18 months.

    Florida Department of Transportation consultant Brad Flom explains potential alternatives to adding toll lanes to Interstate 275 during a meeting Wednesday at DOT's Tampa office. Flom presented seven diagrams, all of which swapped toll lanes for transit, such as light rail or express bus, in the I-275 corridor from downtown Tampa to Bearss Ave. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON | Times]