How Introverts can develop Leadership Presence

Too often we associate a charismatic leader with competency and presence. Yet not all leaders are extroverted or charismatic. Some prefer to lead quietly and have learned how to do so while staying true to their nature, perhaps adapting a bit but not to the point where they are trying to be something they are not.

Here are some ways to stay true to your introverted nature and lead powerfully and confidently.

  1. Accept your natural tendency toward quiet as you would any other trait. Introversion, just like extroversion, has its advantages and disadvantages. Limiting yourself to a belief that one is positive and the other is negative is not useful nor does it allow you to tap what natural strengths come with your nature.
  2. Define “introverted”. To be an introvert is not the same as being timid or shy. This misconception often creates barriers for those who are labeled introverts. Essentially, introversion has more to do with how you process information and where you derive your energy. Introverts tend to process more diligently, sometimes taking more time. They renew themselves in quiet reflection and with few people and are often exhausted in crowds and over-stimulation. 
  3. Enhance the best qualities of the introverted leader. Come to embrace and work with, not against, your nature. Identify where and how you are energized to build more resiliency. Manage circumstances that deplete you. Structure the flow of information in ways that leverage your thoughtfulness and diligence for more clarity and better decisions.
  4. Work with a coach to identify the abilities associated with an introverted nature. Once you identify your strengths you can tap them as needed. You will also become aware of where you choose to stretch into your discomfort to enhance your leadership and where you may want to rely on someone else’s extroverted strength to accomplish things, influence others and execute strategies.
  5. Set boundaries. The best leaders know where those boundaries are and stay within them. If you find yourself exhausted, your ability to lead will be compromised. If you know you need time in your day or week to renew yourself, build it into your schedule. Intentionally create a structure that allows you to lead best within your nature and in alignment with what works to support you.
  6. Energy follows attention. This is one of the basic concepts in Aikido and in how we teach leaders to embody leadership presence. Your energy will follow your attention so be conscious of where your want to focus your time and energy. Develop a criterion that allows you to choose for or against your attention. Distinguish between what really matters and what is noise.
  7. Create space. Using the principles of Aikido you step off the line into more power to expand time and space. This creates physical space and in leadership it creates psychic space. Learn to use this spaciousness to listen and blend before attempting to influence or guide others. Your introverted nature will assist in moving with what is purposefully and powerfully.
  8. Embodied leadership presence is achieved by focusing attention into any body sensation.   When feeling off center, focus your attention quietly on the body sensations to bring you back to the present moment. This can be done at any moment and can be done discreetly.
  9. Think holistically. Research shows that about half of us are introverts and half of us are extroverts. When creating teams that are diverse in nature be attentive to include extroverts and introverts. The team perspective will be broader and each style can be tapped based on the situation at hand to resolve challenges, influence outcomes or work collaboratively on projects.
  10. Presence is both a body state and a mind state. Be conscious of how you hold your body. How you stand will make you feel more or less confident depending on your stance. Standing tall, like your mother may have told you, leads to feelings of well-being and confidence. Slouching or head down elicits feelings of disempowerment. Additionally, as a leader, your followers need to see and feel your state of being in order to follow you and your vision, and to feel safe and motivated to do so. 

You do not have to be someone you are not. Embrace your true nature, tap your inherent strengths and experiment with ways to reach out to others to communicate your vision and enhance your leadership.


“As an introvert it was eye-opening to learn that I could use my stance and attention to generate a powerful presence without being loud or pushy. It has completely changed how I interact in situations where I need to influence decisions or have my ideas heard. I am more confident and less critical with myself and others have commented on this new way of being. Thank you so much!”

(c) 2015 Alicia M. Rodriguez,  President, Sophia Associates, Inc.  We work with visionary leaders to develop conscious leadership to meet 21st Century challenges.