Today, I’d like to share some of my best leadership tips for introverts serving in the military.
Have you noticed that most military leaders have different personalities and leadership styles? Here are a few examples:
- Some military leaders are loud and boisterous while other leaders are quiet and calm.
- Some military leaders are laid back while others are hard charging.
- Some military leaders are methodical and detailed, while others don’t get wrapped up in the details.
- Some military leaders have a great sense of humor while others are dry and boring.
You get the picture.
The good news is that there are MANY ways to skin a cat (sorry cats). You do need certain leadership qualities to be a great leader, but personality types are much less important. The bottom line is you can be a great military leader REGARDLESS of your personality type. Even introverts can be amazing leaders. In fact, some of the best military leaders are introverts.
What is an Introvert?
Most people think of an introvert as someone who is quiet and/or shy. Those are some qualities of most introverts, but here is a better definition I found online.
An introvert is a person with qualities of a personality type known as introversion, which means that they feel more comfortable focusing on their inner thoughts and ideas, rather than what’s happening externally. They enjoy spending time with just one or two people, rather than large groups or crowds. ~ WebMD
If you enjoy spending time alone, don’t like group work, would rather write than talk, are reflective and self-aware, and need quiet to concentrate, you are probably an introvert.
Top 12 Leadership Tips for Introverts Serving in the Military
What I’m going to do in the paragraphs below is share 12 of my best leadership tips for introverts serving in the military. These are things that helped me during my military career (yes, I am an introvert).
# 1: Focus on Your Strengths
Every leader has strengths and weaknesses. No one is perfect. Take some time and figure out what your strengths are. Brainstorm ideas and write them down. Once you know your top 3-5 strengths (you might already know them) focus on them.
I’ve learned from personal experience that you will rarely turn a weakness into a strength. You will be much better off if focus on what you are good at.
If you are good at written communication, leverage it. If you are good at listening, leverage it. If you are good at analyzing things, leverage it.
# 2: Surround Yourself with People Who Have Different Personality & Leadership Styles
Most people want to surround themselves with people like themselves. That is a big mistake in my opinion.
If you have the luxury of choosing the people who work with you, surround yourself with people who are DIFFERENT from you. Select people with different personalities and leadership styles. This adds strength to you and your unit. It gives you different experiences and perspective to draw upon.
# 3: Communicate One-on-One
If you are naturally good at communicating with people one-on-one, do more of that. However, that doesn’t mean you neglect talking in a group setting, when needed. Sometimes, you will need to speak to everyone in your unit or section at once. When necessary, do it.
Personally, I always enjoyed spending time with my subordinate leaders one-on-one, talking and listening. Not only was it effective for me, but I believe they appreciated the one-on-time. It also helps develop the mentor/mentee relationship.
# 4: Take Time to Learn the Different Personality Types
Learn about the different personality types. There are only a few to know about. Read a book about personality types or watch some helpful YouTube videos. Once you know how each personality functions, this will drastically improve your leadership effectiveness. You can tailor your personality to each person you interact with.
# 5: Don’t Think of Quietness as Weakness
Don’t cast doubt on yourself that you can’t be a good military leader because you are quiet. Being introverted is a strength that can help you immensely.
Many young military leaders think they can never be a great leader because they aren’t outgoing or “people persons” like other leaders in the unit. You do need confidence and posture to be a great leader, but you can do it in a way that aligns with your own introverted personality.
# 6: Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
Whenever possible, step out of your comfort zone. Do things that make you uncomfortable. Resolve conflict immediately and directly. Speak in public whenever possible. Deal with stressful situations. The more you do this, the more comfortable and confident you will become.
# 7: Take a Class on Public Speaking
As you progress through the military ranks, you will speak in front of large audiences from time-to-time. It behooves you to learn how to be an effective communicator. Sign up for Toastmasters or take a public speaking class at your local community college. You don’t have to become a dynamic public speaker, but you must appear confident and be able to effectively deliver your message.
# 8: Find an Introverted Mentor
Find someone you respect, with great leadership skills, who is also an introvert. Find out what they did to be an effective military leader. Take them out to lunch and pick their brain. You’ll probably find 1-2 nuggets that can help you take your leadership skills to the next level. Also, seek counsel from them when you need to. Ideally, you want to find a mentor outside of your chain of command, so there is no conflict of interest.
# 9: Leverage Your Listening Skills
Most introverts are great listeners. Listen to your support staff. Listen to your supervisor and team. Listen to your direct reports. Listen to your soldiers. You will learn 10x more by listening than you will by speaking.
# 10: Don’t Let People Take Advantage of You
Sometimes, people with strong personalities try to “walk over” introverts. Don’t let that happen to you. Be confident. Set boundaries. If there is an issue with someone or something, address it in private, immediately. Do not let yourself get bullied by a boss or peer.
# 11: Don’t Hide When Things Go Bad
Our job as a leader is to solve problems. When things go bad, and they sometimes will, that is not the time to be quiet or hide. This is when you need to step up your game, be available in public, and fix the problem. It won’t be comfortable or enjoyable, but it’s vital that you do this.
# 12: Let Your Staff & Subordinates Know Your Leadership Style & Personality
One of the best things you can do when you first start your new job is to let your support staff and direct reports know your personality style. Tell them your leadership style. Let them know the boundaries and how to communicate with you. This will eliminate many leadership type problems before they ever happen.
In conclusion, these are some of my best leadership tips for introverts serving in the military.
What are your thoughts? What are your best leadership tips for introverts in the military? What has worked well for you? Leave a comment below to let me know what you think. I look forward to hearing from you.