Confessions of an introvert HR leader

Despite leadership hurdles, introverts can still navigate the pressures of senior management, says LinkedIn's head of talent

“I felt overwhelmed and didn’t want to use up all my energy in one go; it was like stranger danger in my head. I felt uncomfortable.”
This was a common scenario, said LinkedIn’s global head of talent Pat Wadors, especially when people asked her to sit at the front in leadership meetings.
She stressed however that she didn’t feel overwhelmed with the role itself; rather she was displaying the typical traits of an introvert leader.
“Being an introvert has been interesting to me because that’s my energy – I like to read, to be with my family, to spend time with a few close friends. My energy thrives when I’m mostly by myself.
“When I’m with my work team and my employees, they see me and think I’m extroverted because I give all my energy away. They don’t see me at the end of the day when I’m by myself and exhausted.”
One of the key essentials for any introvert leader is to tell people around you exactly who you are so they don’t misinterpret anything, Wadors said.
“For example, if you want to bring the best out of me during a brainstorming session it’s probably not going to happen – introverts want to have fully formed ideas, not half-baked ideas, before they open their mouths.”
She eventually learned to navigate her personality and recognise her strengths, weaknesses, communication style and how people perceived her.
This eventually led to the development of LinkedIn’s Quiet Ambassadors program which helps people bring out the best in themselves regardless of personality.
Those participating in the pilot program will become advocates for other introverts within the organisation, Wadors said.
“They’ll be taught how to be an introvert leader or how to manage introverts. We’ll include extroverts next time round so they can manage introverts and get more from them.”
Introverts may have a negative image in the workplace, Wadors said, as they can be seen as people who refrain from talking or participating. This is far from the truth, she added.
“It’s getting them to talk in a way that they don’t lose energy. We’ll teach both sides of the coin, so how to get the most out of each other.”
One of the most powerful tips for success is knowing how to communicate with your whole body without even saying a word, Wadors explained.
“I actually spent time in a leadership meeting a year ago to test my theory out,” she said. “All I did was lean in, write notes and nod my head. By the time I walked out my boss said, ‘Great meeting, everyone participated; I know what everyone is thinking.’
“He never knew I didn’t say a word. He read my body language; he knew where I was aligned, where I wasn’t aligned – just because of how I was behaving. That’s powerful.”
Related stories:
Introverts vs extroverts: Who makes the better leader?
How can HR managers ensure diversity of thought in the workplace?
Should HR have close friendships at work?

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