The Fountain Institute

Why introverts struggle with leadership

Published over 1 year ago • 3 min read

Dear Reader,

It's Hannah again, and I don't know who needs to hear this, but you can become the next design leader without being the loudest in the room. I'll walk you through how I did it.

Spoiler alert: I didn't even have to interrupt anyone.

I don't like being at the center of attention; too many social interactions can drain me. I hate public speaking and have been terrified of it most of my life.

Now that I teach for the Fountain Institute every week, people don't believe me when I say I'm not a public speaker. Maybe they see me in front of 100s of people at our online workshops (we had over 250+ participants at our recent workshop: How to Interview Users) and think, "This person is a natural public speaker."

I'm not. And I want to share my secret today.

I can do it today because I found a "style" that worked for me. I built my "style" around my strengths of asking great questions, leaning on my active listening skills, and checking in on other people. I later realized this "style" is facilitation.

Why introverts struggle with leadership.

People look up to leaders; you become the center of attention at meetings and in the workplace. But if you're an introvert, you avoid being the center of attention and being in large social gatherings.

It's hard to be seen and respected as a leader when you're uncomfortable being the center of attention.

An extrovert is likelier to brag or show off their accomplishments in collaborative work. They will not be afraid to share their ideas and try to push for them.

But pushing your ideas is the opposite of facilitation.

And I think there are more innovative ways to share your ideas than yelling them.

Why facilitating is the answer.

You gain respect and allow your team to see you as a leader when you facilitate. The skills you earn as an introvert become your advantage in facilitation.

As a facilitator of design workshops, you care more about generating the best ideas for a problem, not pushing your agenda.

When workshops improve the business, the person who designed and runs that workshop gets an opportunity to be seen as someone who can lead a team to results.

As an introvert, I had perfected skills that became necessary for being a great facilitator. The top ones I want to focus on today are

  • Active listening
  • Asking questions
  • Reading the room

Facilitation skills are introvert skills.

Active listening

Active listing is genuinely listening to what someone says and ensuring they feel heard. Introverts are comfortable sitting and listening. We don't interject every thought we have.

Asking questions

Introverts don't always want attention on us, so we tend to ask more questions to get others talking. We are always contemplating and curious. We don't want to talk about ourselves, so we learn how to ask great questions.

Reading the room

We are observers. We pay attention to how people interact, know how much time we take, and leave space for others. This helps us read the room's vibe, keep track of time, and keep others' feelings at the forefront

The Design Facilitator

When you are a facilitator, it's not about you. It's about creating a space where people feel comfortable sharing their ideas, especially if they are different ideas. You want to build trust with a group, get at the heart of the real problem, and have your group feel heard and trust you.

The next step is combining all this with your incredible design skills and creating a workshop for your team.

After the workshop, your team will leave feeling seen and heard, with actionable steps to drive business outcomes. Your bosses will be impressed, and do you know who will be responsible for this success


It's the era of the introvert leader.

Adam Grant found in his research [source] that there is no difference between the effectiveness of extrovert and introvert leaders if you track the performance of their teams at their companies.

But if we look deeper, extrovert leaders thrive with reactive followers and teams looking for direction.

Introvert leaders are better with proactive employees and teams who bring up new ideas. Introvert leaders lift the best ideas for a solution rather than promote their own.

We no longer live in the industrial age when we have a top-down, waterfall product approach. The future is an innovative, agile workforce that allows the best minds to develop solutions.

To me, it sounds like the introvert facilitator is poised to become the next era of leaders.

Whether you're an introvert or an extrovert, facilitation provides an innovative way to lead teams using your design skills.

Learn more at our 1-hour free masterclass called How to Lead with Facilitation next Wednesday, October 5th @ 19:00 CEST

Until next week!

Hannah Baker
Educator & Co-Founder
The Fountain Institute

P.S. It's finally done...😅

I've been working on a free mini course on Facilitating Workshops for weeks, and it's packed with so many nuggets to help you level up in workshop design.

Click here to get the FREE 7-day Facilitating Workshops Course emailed to you→

I hope it gives you the confidence to take your workshops to the next level!

The Fountain Institute

The Fountain Institute is an independent online school that teaches advanced UX & product skills.

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