How the Introverted CIO Can Survive in an Extroverted World

A lifelong introvert identifies small adjustments introverts can make to strengthen their leadership skills.

Author Naomi Karten (a lifelong introvert herself) says introverts have many strengths that extroverts admire, and identifies small adjustments introverts can make to strengthen their leadership skills.

How can I survive as an introverted CIO in an extroverted world?

Always appreciate that, as an introvert, you have strengths that can help you balance the on-the-go demands of the CIO role. For example, introverts can concentrate on one thing for long periods. They don't need others around to do their best thinking. They test important ideas before expressing them. They have a calming presence in critical situations. Many extroverts lack these strengths and envy introverts for having them.

Sometimes extroverts form negative perceptions of introverts, which can diminish your clout as an executive. For example, extroverts sometimes see introverts as withholding ideas, making minimal contributions to group efforts, and being distant or aloof. But small adjustments can reduce the odds of being misunderstood, such as speaking up more in senior leadership meetings and offering ideas to colleagues without waiting to be asked. Resist the temptation to stay behind closed doors; let your fellow executives and your IT employees see you and know you.

Never fall into the trap of thinking "Woe is me, I'm an introvert"; you'll sabotage your power as a leader. Dare to speak up, even if you haven't had a chance to polish your thoughts. When you need more time to reflect before voicing an opinion, say so. Strive to strengthen your ability to negotiate, persuade, collaborate, build relationships, give presentations and think on your feet. These skills will help you excel as a CIO without sacrificing your natural introversion.

Naomi Karten, a lifelong introvert, is the author of numerous books on topics such as managing change, managing expectations, delivering presentations and surviving as an introvert.

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