The 2023 Society for Scholarly Publishing meeting hosted a popular panel discussion with self-identified introverted leaders for a conversation about the specific challenges and benefits of being an introvert when in leadership positions. Here we share highlights and takeaways from that session. 

Introvert graphic

The panel included: 

  • Julie Nash, Senior Director of Partnership Development at J&J Editorial (moderator) 
  • Will Schweitzer, President of Silverchair 
  • Karen Stoll Farrell, Head, Scholarly Communication Department, Indiana University Libraries 
  • Mithu Lucraft, Senior Consultant, TBI Communications  
While extroverts tend to be more seen and heard, research shows that at least one-third of the people we know are introverts. These members of our teams are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. Many amazing advancements in society, the arts, literature and technology are thanks to introverts like self-described introverts Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss and Bill Gates. 

Still, it can be challenging for introverts to advocate for themselves in the workplace, making their career aspirations and contributions heard and valued. Mithu Lucraft points out that even the path to identifying as an introvert can be challenging, especially given the intersection between introversion and imposter syndrome. You might spend years feeling out of place or feeling like you “need” to do certain things to be successful, when really, you’re judging based on the loudest people in the room instead of recognizing and playing to your own strengths.  

Recommendations around getting comfortable with some of this include:  

  • Practice asking for time to give feedback, rather than feeling pressured to reply on the spot 
  • Have a conversation with your colleagues on how to engage you to get the best out of you / the introverts on the team  
  • Identify the communication formats that work best for you for different types of work, and leverage those to make yourself heard  
“At different points in my career, being an introvert has shown up in different ways,” said Will Schweitzer. “Early in my career it was useful because I’d get to sit back and absorb things and learn about people. Later, however, when you need to be selling things and persuading people and managing teams, it takes a different shape and needed to be something I more actively considered in my approaches.” 

Other often-unseen workplace considerations as an introvert include: 

  • How do you effectively advocate for your team? How do you advocate for yourself in career progression? 
  • How do you bring people along with your thinking when you’re in a listening mode? 
  • How do you build yourself up in a way that is authentic as a presenter? 
For Karen Stoll Farrell, it’s important to intentionally manage downtime, building it into your schedule when traveling, and being mindful of when you need to step away and recharge. As a manager, she’s found she’s best when working 1:1 versus managing teams in a group setting. Employing approaches like this allow introverts to show up authentically, without masking. 

One big area of discussion both with the panelists and in audience questions was around networking. How can introverts navigate the workplace and make the most of networking opportunities? Some of the replies from the session: 

  • Recognize that it’s likely not going to happen over drinks or in a large group setting; it’s more likely to happen from working closely with a person who then connects you to others on an individual basis. 
  • It helps to lean on your extroverted friends and colleagues, aka “the buddy system” as one person joked. Having well-networked mentors who can build connections with you is another way to leverage individual connections in a more comfortable setting.  
  • Lean into listening as a key skill of introverts and also a key to networking: people love to be heard—let them talk! 
  • Map out talking points in advance to help ease into a conversation 
  • Plan ahead to have down time before and after planned networking. 
During the SSP session, we asked the audience (of whom 75% identified as introverts), What is your introvert superpower? Their answers (with the most common responses at top):  

  • Empathy 
  • Listening / active listening 
  • Problem solving 
  • Observation / Ability to see things from a unique, non-obvious perspectives 
  • Analysis 
  • Record-keeping / note-taking 
  • Deep relationships 
  • Big picture-thinking 
  • Focus  
  • Influencing on a smaller scale 
  • Patience 
  • Remembering people & details 
One thing we all took from the session was that there’s a clear appetite for spaces to engage with other introverts and to discuss these kinds of topics. Fortunately, one of the panelists, Mithu Lucraft, already crafted such a space on LinkedIn: The Introvert Network. 

We encourage our introverted readers to join and engage with like-minded individuals.  

Some questions from the session to start the conversation with you and your peers: 

  • How can introverts advocate for themselves in the workplace, making their career aspirations and contributions heard and valued? 
  • How can introverts make the most of networking opportunities? How can you still be yourself in these situations?  
  • How does this show up as a manager or different personality types? How do you manage expectations for extroverted direct reports when you’re an introvert? 
  • What tips do you have for managing “performance anxiety” in meetings, and being articulate on the spot?  

Further reading:  

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