Thanks in no small part to Susan Cain’s research and TED talks, it seems like Introverts are having a moment. Anyone who identifies as an introvert and is sick of being told to be more outgoing is probably thinking, “at last!” Which leads me to my next question, if charisma is so impactful,
Can someone who is an Introvert have Charisma?
First, let’s clear up and important misconception. Though different psychologists may define introversion slightly differently, introversion does not equal being shy. Personally, I like Cain’s definition that introverts have a preference for a quiet, more minimally stimulating environment.
We all have a stereotype of a charismatic person being an extrovert and that’s alright. But, stop and think for a second. Though most charismatic people you know may be extroverts, not every extrovert you know is charismatic. Some extroverts are better defined by the following words: loud-mouth, boor, attention-hog, or obnoxious.
And maybe you really do know a lot of introverts with charisma, you just don’t think of them that way because of our societal bias towards extroverts. The following people are identified as introverts and have done fine in the charisma and success departments.
- Keanu Reeves – Neo, John Wick, I can never remember, was he Bill or Ted?
- Steve Jobs – You don’t build a trillion-dollar company without some charisma
- Steven Spielberg – The man who brought us Indiana Jones, ET, and velociraptors
- JK Rowling – Richer than the Queen, wrote Harry Potter
- Warren Buffett – The Oracle of Omaha, people regularly bid over $1 million dollars to have lunch with him
- Mahatma Gandhi – Try to convince anyone you know that when they are getting hit not to hit back
- Michael Jordan – Lots of rings, sneakers, a hit movie
- Meryl Streep – Watch any movie she has made if the Academy Awards are not enough to convince you
- Elon Musk – Real-life Tony Stark
So how is an introvert able to have charisma? What makes the difference between those introverts who make an impact and those who fade into the background and are forgotten?
Once we understand that charisma is about sensing and ultimately delivering what is most needed from an emotional perspective, we can start to see how neither extroversion nor introversion defines charisma.
The key for introverts is that while still operating within their preference for a minimally stimulating environment, they have to be able to emotionally connect with others and deliver what that other person needs. For example, a struggling company can be just as energized by a thoughtful leader with an ability to listen and quietly instill confidence in the path forward as a brash, macho leader who promises to take no prisoners. Both leaders can give their employees the reassurance and comfort they need to continue to believe in the future of the company and bring their best to work.
The challenge for the introvert is they have to be among people to connect to them. They have to be able to emotionally connect to and move others. This doesn’t mean they have to be around people all the time and this doesn’t mean they shouldn’t take time away from people to recharge. This does mean they have to understand that charisma happens in the space between people and not in solitude.