Lean Leadership for Introverts

If you are an introvert taking on a new leadership role, you are not alone.  Introverts are taking on new leadership roles all the time.  These roles can be that of a young engineer put in charge of a Kaizen team, the new CEO, or anything in between.  There are more introverts out there than you probably think since they are more likely to fly under the radar.

This is even true within leadership ranks.   What do you do to be successful if you are one of the many introverts in leadership today?  Lisa Petrilli, author of The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadershiphas several suggestions.  Here are a few tips for introverts that apply especially well in Lean Leadership within manufacturing and other lean environments:

  1. As a Lean Leader, you should have a vision of excellence.  Motivate others to pursue your vision.  You will need to move outside your comfort zone to connect and communicate with your team.
  2. Lean Leaders must be able to call their team into action.  Tap into your extraversion when it’s time to rally and inspire your team.  Recognize that as an introvert, you are going to be slower to move into action than your extraverted counterparts so you’ll need to learn to make this happen.
  3. Recognize that you have a different approach to decision making than extraverts.  You tend to reflect on decisions so you have a clear idea when you decide to act.  Lean Leadership often requires methodical and data driven decision making.  Many Kaizens, DMAIC’s, and other initiatives of the Lean Six Sigma movement are highly successful because they did not rush to judgment.  Use this to your advantage.  One caution though:  don’t overanalyze situations when it’s time to act.
  4. Small group activities and one-on-one conversations are critical to the success of the Lean movement.  Use your comfort level in small groups to enhance relationship building and to gain trusted advisors.
  5. Lean Leadership is all about tapping into individual’s and teams’ knowledge and abilities.  You must learn to embrace the outside world to be a truly effective leader.  While you probably tend to spend a lot of time thinking through, it’s critical that you understand your team, your customers, and the process you are trying to improve.

As an introvert, you have talents and abilities that don’t come as easily to your extrovert counterparts.  Use these to your advantage while stepping out of your comfort zone when needed to be a truly effective Lean Leader.

Best regards,
Christian Paulsen
Lean Leadership
Written for ConsumersGoodsClub.com

About Christian Paulsen

Christian Paulsen is an Executive Consultant with 20 years of Lean Manufacturing. Chris adds value to organizations by driving process improvement and bottom line savings. Chris intends to help others by sharing the lessons learned after a quarter century of operational leadership, marriage, parenting, and even longer as a Cubs fan. Your comments on this blog are welcome. You can also connect with Chris via LinnkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook in the right sidebar. Chris welcomes your comments. Christian's professional services are available by contacting him through LinkedIn (right side bar)
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10 Responses to Lean Leadership for Introverts

  1. Jos says:

    So true. Nice to know what to do, as an introvert LEAN coach/leader.
    – Jos

    • Jos,

      What kind of Lean work do you do? I think that some Lean work is better suited for introverts that are able to get out of their comfort zone. Those with the propensity to think things through and be methodical would certainly have an advantage. There are many of us out there too. You might want to check the links back to Lis Patrilli’s blog that are in the post. She has a lot of interesting points. Thanks for your comments.


  2. Leaders who have a preference for Introversion, may not fit into the stereotypical “leadership” profile but this does not mean that they are not great leaders. I work with leaders with both Introvert and Extravert preferences and the key to success is about self awareness and being able to adapt their personal style to the situation. I worked with a very senior manager, who could not understand why when she went to external meetings, she found it very difficult to contribute, having done some work using the Jigsaw Discovery Tool, she identified that she had a strong preference for Introversion, this then enabled her to develop strategies to deal with the situations she found difficult. The strategies she found worked for her were:
    To sit where she had direct eye line and sight of the chairperson, making it easier for the chair to see when she was ready to contribute
    Prepare in advance and try to anticipate the discussions
    Speak early to remove anxiety
    Ask a question to show that you are interested and engaged, if you are not ready to contribute
    Dont beat yourself up if it doesn’t work, there is always next time!

    • Michelle,

      You share some great insight and advice. I can see how these strategies would make a big difference. I’ll be looking for opportunities to apply these myself. Thank you for sharing your comments.

      Best regards,

  3. Thank you for taking some of the lessons from my book back to your readers and teams, Christian, I sincerely appreciate it. Wishing you all the best of the holiday season, Lisa Petrilli

    • It’s my pleasure, Lisa. You have great material that would be beneficial to many in leadership roles. I know I learned a few things about myself and about how to leverage my skills. Thanks for checking in and for your comments.

      Best regards,

  4. Viviana says:

    hi Chris, it’s an interesting book review here from the the viewpoint of Introvert, Lisa Petrilli, the author. Even introvert can shine too. Leadership starts from leading ourselves first. I guess that everyone must lead themselves first before they learn to lead other people.

  5. Happy New Year Chris, I guess you have been busy lately.
    I’m introvert with capable to rise up to speak when its need.

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