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The introverted CEO’s guide to leadership success

4 min read


Lisa Petrilli, chief executive officer of C-Level Strategies, is passionate about changing the world through visionary leadership. She works with executive-level clients as a leadership consultant, marketing strategist and social media concierge. Read her Introvert’s Guide to Business and Leadership blog series; hire and connect with Lisa via LeadChange, website, LinkedIn or Twitter.

You’re an introvert who’s just been named CEO. You know what got you to this point successfully, but you also know that 40% of CEOs last no more than two years in office.

You’re wondering if the approach you brilliantly used to reach the top as an introvert will be the most effective one now that you’re at the top.

A CEO’s Introversion-Extroversion Balance

To advance to this point, you were likely required to tap into your extroversion during your career. You had to get outside your comfort zone to gain visibility in the organization, get your ideas heard and motivate others to action.

The brilliant truth is that, as CEO, your greatest strength comes from within you. Your introverted world of vision and ideas will empower you to move your company forward. Now, more than ever, it will be imperative for you to tap into your quiet strengths to motivate and inspire your teams, make critical decisions and develop and nurture strong relationships.

1. Motivating others to pursue your vision

To reach the top spot, you had to motivate your teams along the way. Now you’re not only motivating them to implement strategies, you’re motivating them to bring your vision for the organization to life.

This is a dramatic change .

As an introvert, this is where your ability to lead from within becomes your Herculean strength. You are naturally energized by your vision and by your illuminating ideas for bringing it to life. Additionally, because introverts are so comfortable with the world of ideas and images, they make great storytellers.

When you tap into your extroversion to communicate your vision and ideas, you will be fueled by your inner energy for them. Stories will help you take your employees on an emotional journey with you to understand and embrace your vision.

The bottom line for introverted leaders? It’s imperative to get out of your comfort zone and to be fully present with your team. However, your power to inspire and motivate comes from tapping into the place where you are most comfortable: The world within.

2. Decision making is more crucial than ever

To succeed as CEO, you must be decisive. For introverts, reflection is a critical part of the decision-making process.

Now that you’re in the top spot, you have the power to mold the decision-making process to better meet your needs, enabling you to meet the needs of the company.

Meet in small groups with your leadership team and business unit heads whenever possible. During company-wide processes such as budgeting and strategic planning, work personal reflection into them to keep the initiatives on track while allowing time to respond to the many requests you’ll receive.

Bottom line: Recognize that as an introvert you are more effective when you have time to think things through. By shaping the decision-making process to meet your needs wherever possible, you’ll empower yourself to be a more decisive and successful leader.

3. Embrace, and connect with, the world outside

It’s imperative to enter the world outside your comfort zone, not only to thoroughly understand your customers, competitors and industry trends, but to create and nurture vital relationships that enable you to manage your board, gain new customers, develop external partnerships and lead your teams.

Bottom line: Whereas networking was a critical strategy for advancing in your career, cultivating genuine and deep relationships — something introverts excel at  — becomes your focus as CEO.

Overall bottom line: Own your power! Introverts make wildly successful CEOs, and even presidents … with Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Abraham Lincoln as proof!