Introverts might provide exactly the kind of leadership the mining industry needs right now.
When we think of introverts we probably think of a shy, quiet, retiring kind of person. A wallflower, perhaps. Someone who sits back, rather than takes a driving seat.
But that’s not what being an introvert means at all. Introverts might not be loud and outspoken, but they have plenty of qualities that make them both an asset to any team, and excellent leaders. In fact, they might just be exactly the kind of leader the mining industry needs right now.
What is an introvert?
The term introvert was coined by Swiss psychologist Carl Jung a century ago to describe people’s personalities and how they relate to the world. An introvert is someone whose energy is directed inwards, rather than outwards (those whose energy is directed outwards are extroverts).
Introverts tend to be reserved, quiet and introspective, using their own thoughts and feelings to both guide their understanding of the world and determine how they move through it. But don’t mistake this for shyness. Introverts are often confident about their quietness.
Here’s a great TED talk from introvert Susan Cain about what introversion is. It’s a fascinating presentation and a great way to spend 18 minutes, if you have it.
Introverts and leadership
It’s natural, when you think of leadership qualities, to imagine more extroverted traits — like networking, relationship building and public speaking.
But introverts also have traits that make them natural leaders and, as MPI’s Consultant for Mining Engineering Ann Meyer points out, they could be exactly the qualities mining needs in this stage of the investment cycle.
“Introverts don’t take so many risks, which is what we need right now,” she said.
The qualities of introversion mining needs right now
Introverts are generally regarded to be good and empathetic listeners and deep thinkers, able to take counsel from many sources, being willing to hear all perspectives, before providing considered leadership.
Not only do introverts listen when others speak, people tend to listen to them when they speak, because people know they will have a considered and valuable contribution.
Introverts also tend to be quietly confident but humble, which is one reason so many people like them. They’ll advocate for others, accept their own mistakes, and understand the limits of their own expertise. They will consult widely but, once they have made a decision, they will have made it with certainty. They are excellent problem solvers.
It’s easy to see how these qualities make an introvert an excellent leader. But what about their lack of those extroverted traits, like making easy social connections and being the public face of an organisation?
The fact is, introverts still make good connections. They might be slower to develop, but they tend to be stronger, based on more depth. They can also still be charismatic and inspire confidence in their leadership.
“Nelson Mandela was an introvert,” Ann said. “So were many highly creative leaders.”
Making space for introverts in mining
Assuming we’re sold on the positives of introversion to the mining industry, how do we welcome more introverts into the industry and promote them into leadership positions? It starts with creating the right kind of space for introverts to work.
“Science and psychology have discovered that introverts are not about being shy, but about not being able to function in high activity areas all the time,” Ann said.
“Their creativity comes from being in a quiet space. The writer of Dr Seuss wrote all his books in a room at the top of a tower.”
Not that every introvert needs a tower, but Ann said it is important that companies recognise that introverts need quiet spaces to work — which is not something the common “cubicle farm” layout of most offices provides.
“Society seems to think everyone needs to be an extrovert, spending every waking moment with people and, if you don’t, you are considered weird,” Ann said.
“It comes back to workplaces not being designed to accommodate everyone, not providing enough quiet areas where people can think, expecting everyone to be super social.”
When we make spaces for introverts, we can harness their qualities and everyone wins. It might start with a new office plan, but who knows where it could end up?
MPI has more than 28 years’ specialist experience helping mining companies uncover the best candidates for their executive and leadership roles. Find out more about our executive search service here or get in touch directly.