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  • Writer's pictureCécile Hemery

The Power of Quiet Leadership: Embracing Introversion, Sensitivity, and Dependability

Summer reeds in colourful sunset

Merriam Webster defines "quiet" in different ways: 

  • Tending to speak very little: not loquacious, the opposite of "excessive talk"

  • Carried out secretly or discreetly, not made known openly or publicly

  • Gentle, easygoing

From this, we can understand that quietness isn't one-dimensional; it takes different shapes and forms.

My inspiration to help quiet leaders has grown gradually, with significant moments in my life planting the seeds for this focus.

One pivotal moment occurred during a leadership team training day. We took the MBTI test, and I discovered I was very much an introvert. Out of about 10 people, only a couple of us were introverted. As I delved deeper into introversion, observing my own behaviour and that of others, I had a revelation: what I had always considered personal failures – not rising to occasions, feeling guilty, or exhausting myself – was actually me trying to be someone I'm not.

Later, I came across Susan Cain's brilliant TED talk, "The Power of Introverts." Her experience mirrored mine, and I saw myself in much of what she shared. An ember began to spark: if it was okay for her to be herself, brilliantly, on stage, maybe it could be okay for me too.

At the time, I was working for a Mobile Gaming company that held annual company-wide events. These were treated as employee rewards, with a huge budget. The trade-off was shared rooms. While I complied for a couple of years, one year I just couldn't do it. I'd been having a tough time, drained by medical procedures. The thought of spending four days surrounded by 2000 people without a private space to recharge was overwhelming. But I still wanted to attend.

It turned out there was a way to get a private room: give a talk. So I applied, not because I had something to say, but because I wanted my own room. Feeling that my work in Marketing and CRM wouldn't interest anyone (a significant realisation in itself), I decided to talk about why I was giving a talk despite not really wanting to. I shared my experience as an introvert in the workplace, validating my own experience and asserting that it was okay to be this way. The overwhelmingly positive response made me realise I'd touched on something significant – something that was both part of who I am and resonated with others. It took a few more years and lots of training for this seed to fully bloom into my current business.

Reflecting on my journey and those of my clients, I realised that quiet people aren't necessarily just introverts. My definition of quiet people now encompasses:

1. The Introverts: Those who thrive in peace and quiet, preferring deep one-on-one connections over group interactions.

2. The Sensitives: Individuals who deeply feel the emotions of the world and others around them.

3. The Dependables: Reliable team players who often prioritise others' needs over their own.

I embody aspects of all three, giving me an intimate understanding of what it feels like.

The Introverts

While awareness about introversion has grown, many still confuse it with shyness or social anxiety. These are distinct traits. Simply put, introversion and extraversion are about energy management.

Extraverts gain energy from social interactions and external stimulation. Introverts, conversely, find these draining and recharge through solitude and introspection. Ambiverts fall in the middle, experiencing elements of both depending on the situation. You can read more about this in “How is the introvert brain wired?”.

Challenges of Introverted Leaders

In our extrovert-centric world, quiet leaders face unique challenges. We often associate leadership with outspoken, quick-thinking individuals who thrive in the spotlight. Growing up with these expectations, introverts may conclude they're not cut out for leadership. They might try to emulate extroverted traits, often at a significant personal cost.

Overcoming Challenges for Introverted Leaders

1. Recognise diverse leadership styles: Effective leadership isn't limited to extroverted qualities.

2. Leverage your natural strengths: Re-evaluate your abilities based on who you truly are, not who you think you should be.

3. Embrace authenticity: Own your introverted nature and lead with confidence in your unique qualities.

Be cautious not to use introversion as a shield. Stepping out of your comfort zone is healthy, but balance it with respecting your needs.

In my own journey, networking remains the most draining part of my job. I manage it by setting clear boundaries: no more than two events in 24 hours or per week, arriving early, and leaving when my energy wanes. I focus on having a few deep, one-on-one conversations rather than trying to meet everyone. This approach allows me to participate while respecting my limits.

The Sensitives

Sensitive individuals, including Highly Sensitive People (HSPs), are often quiet by nature. Society frequently misunderstands them, viewing emotional expression and vulnerability as weaknesses.

Sensitive people deeply experience the emotions of others and the world around them. They might cry at a commercial or feel heartbroken for a stranger treated unfairly. Sometimes, these emotions are so intense they become difficult to articulate or process. You can read more about the Sensitives here: "Who are sensitive souls?".

Challenges of Sensitive Leaders

Sensitive leaders might view their emotions as barriers, hindering their ability to express themselves in meetings or be seen as strong leaders. When they try to suppress these feelings, it may work temporarily, but unaddressed emotions often resurface more powerfully.

In today's challenging times, with constant exposure to difficult news through various media, sensitive individuals face additional struggles in maintaining emotional balance.

Overcoming Challenges for Sensitive Leaders

Sensitive leaders must carefully manage their energy. Even seemingly small things, like choice of TV shows or reading material, can significantly impact their mood. In my experience, I absorb the mood of whatever I engage with. I avoid certain shows not because they lack quality, but because their violent or stressful content affects me and makes it harder to stay grounded.

Boundaries are crucial for sensitive leaders. Their sensitivity exposes vulnerable parts of themselves, so they need to create and enforce boundaries, both in relationships with others and within themselves.

The Dependables

These are the hardworking individuals who consistently deliver, often at the expense of their own needs. They're always ready to take one for the team, doing whatever needs to be done without vocal demands for recognition.

Dependable people rarely say no, considering 100% effort as the bare minimum. This attitude often leads to work-life balance struggles and vulnerability to burnout. You can read more about the Dependables here: "Overcoming The Good Student Syndrome at work" and "The Selfless Carer posture"

Challenges of Dependable Leaders

Dependable leaders often grew up in environments where academic success or good behaviour was highly valued. They received praise and attention for these qualities, potentially feeling invisible or disappointing when they fell short. Their identity became intertwined with "doing good."

This attitude initially serves them well in the workforce. Everyone appreciates a dedicated employee who goes above and beyond. They get promotions and bonuses, seemingly validating their approach.

However, dependable leaders often hit a ceiling in middle management. Despite doing everything "right," their careers stagnate. The validation diminishes, and their 120% effort becomes the expected norm rather than something to celebrate.

As they age and face new life challenges, like parenthood, maintaining their unsustainable rhythm becomes increasingly difficult. They may feel frustrated, invisible, or blame themselves for perceived shortcomings.

Overcoming Challenges for Dependable Leaders

1. Prioritise self: Recognise that your needs matter as much as others' and your projects'.

2. Let go of external validation: While praise is pleasant, learn to find validation within yourself. This internal confidence can propel your career forward and influence how others perceive you.


Being quiet is a personality trait, not a limitation on your potential or capabilities. It doesn't dictate what you can or cannot do, or who you can or cannot be. Your quietness gives you a deeper capacity for self-reflection – use this to leverage your natural qualities, increase your impact, enhance your happiness, and nourish your sense of purpose.

If you'd like to explore your quiet leadership style further, I invite you to take the Quiet Quiz. Remember, effective leadership isn't about being the loudest voice, but about making a meaningful difference in your own unique way.


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