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by David Morris
6 May 2022

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Quietly brilliant: Being an introvert in medical leadership

Dr David Morris, civilian medical practitioner (GP) at RAF Boulmer Northumberland and MIP event speaker, shares how to thrive as an introvert in medical leadership.

Ask for desirable leadership qualities, and introversion is unlikely to be the top of any list. Yet this often-misunderstood personality type includes many attributes desirable in senior positions.

Primary care is evolving from small friendly teams to working at scale. Some of us of a quieter disposition might well find this transition daunting, and shy away from leadership roles, perhaps thinking we don’t have the right skills.

The world at times seems to be designed around extroverts but look a little deeper and we can understand the value we have to add.

Understanding introversion

Introversion is a concept that most of us feel we understand yet seems difficult to define. Susan Cain, author of the hugely popular self-help book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking describes introverts as preferring a low stimulation environment, enjoying quiet reflection and thinking before speaking.

Extroverts are energised by social interactions whereas introverts find that their energy is used up by socialising and need quiet time to reflect and re-energise. Introversion is not the same as social anxiety and shyness which centre around a fear of judgment. Naturally there will be some overlap.

Leaders who are introverts are quietly capable and able to build close relationships with team members. They are sensitive and can understand the needs of individuals working for them and may be acutely aware when there is some disquiet within the team.

Introverts tend to be slower to make decisions than extroverts and prefer to take time to weigh up any options. This has potential to cause tension, but understanding that different personality types have different preferences goes a long way.

How can we as introverts use our strengths in leadership positions?

Firstly, by being ourselves. The object is not to become or appear more extroverted, but to understand that we have many attributes which can facilitate being a successful leader.

Many introverts will have sat in meetings with excellent ideas, rehearsing what to say and waiting for the perfect opportunity to share it, but frustrated by endless discussion we can see as frivolous or unnecessary. There is never a perfect time to get our point across.

We must remember it is in everyone’s interest that we share our ideas.

Having them written down or discussing them with friendly colleagues in advance can often be useful.

Others may not appreciate the amount of thought that an introvert has put into an idea before sharing it – it is helpful to try and articulate the depth of thought and how you got to your conclusions while sharing.

If there is any doubt, remember that Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Elon Musk and many other brilliant leaders identify as introverts. With a little understanding of our personality and the way we fit into the leadership world, we need to think of introversion as an advantage, rather than a barrier.

Find out more about how to be a successful leader as an introvert at our Management in Practice Newcastle event on 28 September. Sign up here to get your free place