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  • Writer's pictureCécile Hemery

What makes quiet leaders great?

An older female executive meets on on one with one of her employees. She is smiling and the sun is peering through the window behind them.

In today's fast-paced and highly competitive business world, the image of a successful leader is often associated with extroversion. We picture charismatic, outspoken individuals who command attention and exude confidence.

However, this stereotype overlooks the valuable contributions of quiet leaders. As Susan Cain writes in her book "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking", introverts possess a unique set of strengths and qualities that make them exceptional leaders.

Quiet leaders, whose denomination includes introverted, sensitive or "operating out of the spotlight" leaders, bring a different approach to leadership. They may not be the loudest voice in the room or the most avid networkers, but their impact is profound.

In a world that often values extroversion, it's time to recognize the power of quiet leadership. - Susan Cain

The Bias Toward Extroversion

Society has long favoured extroversion as a desirable trait, especially in leadership roles. As Adam Grant, a renowned organisational psychologist, states, introverts have to overcome cultural bias to be seen as successful leaders. This bias can make it challenging for quiet leaders to be recognised and appreciated for their unique strengths.

 "To succeed as leaders, introverts may have to overcome a strong cultural bias." - Adam Grant

Extroverted leaders are often seen as more assertive, decisive, and charismatic. They tend to thrive in social situations and are comfortable being the centre of attention. While these qualities can be valuable, they are not the only path to effective leadership.

The Natural Strengths of Quiet Leaders

Quiet leaders bring a different set of skills and qualities to the table. These strengths, while not always immediately apparent, can have a profound impact on their teams and organisations.

1. Self-Reflection and Self-Awareness

One of the key strengths of quiet leaders is their ability to self-reflect. They are introspective and spend time analysing their own thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. This heightened self-awareness allows them to understand their own strengths, weaknesses, and motivations. As a result, they are better equipped to navigate complex situations and make well-informed decisions.

2. Active Listening and Empathy

Quiet leaders are often great listeners. They have a genuine interest in understanding the perspectives and needs of others. They create a safe space where team members feel heard and valued. By actively listening and showing empathy, quiet leaders build trust and foster strong relationships within their teams.

3. Thoughtful Communication

Quiet leaders are known for their careful and thoughtful communication style. They choose their words wisely and express themselves with clarity and purpose. They understand the power of language and are careful to use it to inspire, motivate, and guide their teams. Their communication is often infused with empathy, making others feel understood and supported.

4. Deep Connections

While quiet leaders may not be the most comfortable in large group settings, they excel in one-on-one interactions. They have a knack for building deep, meaningful connections with individuals. They take the time to understand each team member's unique strengths, challenges, and aspirations. This personal approach creates a sense of loyalty and commitment within the team.

5. Big-Picture Thinking

Quiet leaders have a remarkable ability to take in information, observe patterns, and connect the dots. They are skilled at seeing the big picture and understanding how different pieces fit together. This holistic perspective allows them to identify opportunities, anticipate challenges, and make strategic decisions.

6. Creative Problem-Solving

Quiet leaders are often creative thinkers. They have a talent for generating innovative ideas and finding unconventional solutions to complex problems. They have a particular ability to explore all scenarios and compare them with previous situations. By taking the time to reflect and analyse, they can approach challenges from different angles and develop unique strategies.

7. Service-Oriented Leadership

Quiet leaders often possess a strong sense of purpose and a desire to serve others. They prioritise the needs of their team and the organisation above their own personal recognition. They are not threatened by the success of others and are willing to empower and support their team members. This service-oriented approach creates a positive and collaborative work environment.

The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant. —Max DePree

8. Measured Risk-Taking

Quiet leaders tend to be thoughtful and deliberate in their decision-making. They carefully consider the potential risks and benefits before taking action. While they may not be as prone to taking oversized risks, they are skilled at assessing situations and making well-informed choices. This measured approach can help organisations navigate uncertain times and make sustainable progress.

Examples of Great Quiet Leaders

Throughout history, there have been numerous examples of quiet leaders who have made a significant impact in their fields. Some notable real-world examples include:

  1. Barack Obama - Known for his calm demeanour and thoughtful approach, Obama demonstrated the power of quiet leadership during his presidency.

  2. Abraham Lincoln - Despite his introverted nature, Lincoln's wisdom, empathy, and strategic thinking made him one of the most revered leaders in American history.

  3. Mahatma Gandhi - Gandhi's quiet strength and unwavering commitment to non-violence inspired a nation and changed the course of history.

In the realm of fiction, we also find compelling examples of quiet leaders:

  1. Professor McGonagall - From the Harry Potter series, McGonagall is a wise, stern, and compassionate leader who guides her students with a fair and steady hand.

  2. Yoda - The iconic Jedi Master from Star Wars is known for his profound wisdom, patience, and ability to see beyond the obvious.

  3. Gandalf - In J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf is a quiet but powerful leader who mentors and inspires those around him.

Embracing Quiet Leadership

For quiet leaders to thrive, it is essential to recognise and embrace their unique strengths. By leaning into their natural abilities and authentic leadership style, they can make a significant impact in their organisations and beyond.

It is tempting to look at our flaws and attempt to correct them. But it is far more powerful to recognise and lean into our strengths - they are our stepladders to greatness.

Quiet leaders should not feel pressured to conform to extroverted expectations. Indeed, by trying to emulate extroverted traits they do not have, quiet leaders risk achieving the opposite result they are aspiring to. Instead, they should focus on leveraging their strengths and finding ways to communicate and lead that align with their personality. By staying true to themselves, quiet leaders can inspire trust, foster collaboration, and drive meaningful change.

Organisations can benefit greatly from the contributions of quiet leaders. By creating an inclusive environment that values diverse leadership styles, companies can tap into the full potential of their workforce. Recognising and supporting quiet leaders can lead to increased innovation, employee engagement, and overall success.


In a world that often values extroversion, it's time to recognise the power of quiet leadership. Quiet leaders bring a unique set of strengths and qualities that are essential for effective leadership. Their ability to self-reflect, listen actively, communicate thoughtfully, and build deep connections sets them apart. Diversity of thought and approaches enriches organisations and organisations would benefit from a balanced blend of quiet and extroverted leaders.

By embracing their natural abilities and authentic leadership style, quiet leaders can make a significant impact in their organisations and beyond. It's important for society to challenge the bias toward extroversion and create space for diverse leadership styles to thrive.

As Susan Cain reminds us, "The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting." For quiet leaders, this means finding the environments and opportunities that allow their strengths to shine. By doing so, they can unlock their full potential and make a lasting difference in the world.

If you’re ready to lean into your quiet strengths, send me a message or reach out for a conversation.


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