When your superpower becomes your kryptonite
So you are a Quiet Leader. You are an introvert who leads and whose thoughtfulness is a strength. Have you ever wondered whether you are being too quiet?
You know you are being too quiet when:
- You can scare a cat by sneaking up on it.
- You need a map to get back after being lost in thought.
- You get asked if you took a vow of silence.
- You remind librarians to be quiet.
- You conclude that the best person to have a conversation with is you, and you agree.
- You can work all day and people are not sure if you are at work.
This is a great list (at least I think so). It has some humor and some truth in it.
If you find yourself lost in thought too often, is your team getting the direction that it requires? If you are busily working at your tasks and your team is not really sure where you are, that might be a good sign that you are tipping a little too far into the “I’m Quiet, don’t bug me” side of your personality.
Quiet strength is one of the things that makes you who you are, but there are times when your superpower can become your kryptonite. If this happens, it can impact your relationship with your team, your coworkers and your supervisor.
Signs that tell you that you are being too quiet:
- When your team begins to make it’s own decisions and informs you, rather than consults with you. A leader needs to lead, even when the leader does it with the fewest words possible.
- When your team is asking a lot of questions rather than doing their work. Part of the job of a Leader is to provide enough direction so that staff know what they are to do.
- When your team is missing it’s targets. Bottom lines are a key indicator of a team being on track. Exceptional circumstances do occur, but if our team is consistently missing it’s deadlines we have to ask ourselves if maybe we need to communicate more?
- When your team asks you to communicate. Most staff are up front with what they need. If staff are asking for more communication, direction or clarification, they need you to open up and talk.
- When you cannot remember the last time you connected with your team, individually and as a group. If you have to think about it, it’s time to reconnect. People need each other to function well. As a Quiet Leader, you may not be the most talkative person, but you are a key person in ensuring that the working relationships work well.
- When your need for quiet effects your well-being. If you find that your need for quiet becomes chronic isolation, or seems like it may be masking depression or anxiety, you are being too quiet. You may need to branch out and reconnect with close friends, family, a colleague or a therapist if your need for quiet is due to depression or anxiety.
Being an introvert does not mean a person is depressed or anxious, however, it will make a person more prone to depression and anxiety. This is due to the introverts tendency to turn inward ruminate and be self-critical. Introverts also respond to stimulation different than extroverts. If an introvert becomes overwhelmed by social stimulation, pace, noise or other external factors, it can affect their overall well-being. The wise introvert (and there are a lot of us) will build a set of tools to help them with the cognitive, environmental and behavioral aspects of their personalities. See the last section for more on this.
The effects of isolation
Being a Quiet Leader means that you enjoy some isolation. Being alone can be a productive and allow us to focus, whereas chronic isolation is undermines our productivity and our overall well-being.
In an article that I wrote for The Good Men Project, I quoted Judith Schulevitz,
“Emotional isolation is ranked as high a risk factor for mortality as smoking. A partial list of the physical diseases thought to be caused by or exacerbated by loneliness would include Alzheimer’s, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and even cancer – tumors can metastasize faster in lonely people.”
Isolation can affect our well-being, increase our stress levels and it can exacerbate our mental health. There is a sweet spot where alone time is productive but still makes room for healthy connection. Contrary to common myth, introverts do not avoid relationships. They listen more than they talk, they appreciate a slower paced conversation, they talk one on one more than in groups, and they also value time alone.
How to adjust your need for quiet in order to support your team:
1.Ask your team – Ask them. They will tell you if they are getting enough of you, enough direction. Then you can adjust accordingly.
2. Plan time for quiet and then time for public. If you need to, write it into your schedule. You could also plan for quiet work time before a big social activity like a team meeting.
3. Build a routine so that your team knows what you prefer. It could be that you like to have some time to think before the workday, at lunch or at the end of the day.
4. Accept the anxiety. If you need to make adjustments and be more present, it may bring up some anxiety. Anxiety is simply information that you are changing your routine. Use it to motivate you to prepare, but not over-prepare. With time and practice it will subside.
5. Take a survey of yourself. Psychologists call it acting out of out of your personality Emotional Labour.
-Take note of how often your position demands that you act out of personality. If you can live with it, great. If not, think of ways to adjust your workday. You could use your lunch hour to get away and have some quiet, or come in early before things get busy, or talk to your supervisor.
-You may have to accept that your position does not fit you. You can decide to stay and make the most of it, knowing this will take ongoing emotional work.
-You can also begin to look for a position that fits your strengths.
6. Write it out. Studies have shown that if you write about your experience, you can reduce your anxiety and stress, improve your perspective and attitude. Consider using one of the following prompts as you journal:
-How do you feel about speaking in front of a group?
–What do you like about leadership?
-In your body, where and how do you experience anxiety?
-Which super hero (a real one or one you have made up) do you emulate and why? My hero is Yoda-Ninja (Yoda Inside, Ninja Outside).
-Write about an experience where you needed to step out of your personality and it worked in your favor. What motivated you to do it? What did you learn about yourself?
-In 200 words, What would you say to a younger, Quiet Leader?
7. The Call a Friend strategy. When you don’t know what to do, you call a friend. So I’m calling on you. You must have tips or strategies that you use for when you are called upon to step out of your comfort zone. I’d like to see you in the comments.
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Photo by Brian Tomlinson