TSLH #010: 4 Steps to Speak Up As An Introvert

TSLH #010: 4 Steps to Speak Up As An Introvert

Read time: 4 minutes


For quite some time when I started my career, I thought that I would never become the manager of a team.

Not that I felt that I could not do it.

More because I had been formatted to believe that the only people who succeed as leaders are extroverts.

Every early model of a leader that I had was someone who would be very assertive, who would talk a lot, who would be very sociable and charismatic. My “formatting” was almost never proven wrong.

And being an introvert, these views initially significantly reduced my prospects of being a team leader anytime soon. But not my motivation.

Fortunately, I know better now. First of all, there was a point in my career where I became the manager of a team. And from this point, I realized that I could be as successful as anybody else while still being an introvert.

I learned this from experience, from having introvert leaders as managers, and from better using my common sense and self-awareness to lead in a way that works for me, i.e., that is aligned with who I want to be as a leader.

That makes my job as an introvert leader fulfilling, and at the same time, it keeps giving me some challenges that with time, I have learned to address so that I can still bring value as an introvert leader.

For instance, one thing I have been struggling for years is to speak up in a meeting, especially when it is filled with extroverts and “alpha personalities”.

Over time, I developed a routine/process to address that challenge. This is the routine I want to give you in case you need to use it too as an introvert. And if you are an extrovert reading this newsletter, my hope (and ask to you!) is to be aware of the struggles that some introverts may have in speaking up. At the bottom of the newsletter, I’ll even give you a few tips so you can engage the introverts on your team more.

My process really consists of 4 steps. Let’s say I need to attend a meeting of the leadership team in my company. This is exactly what I would do:

Prepare in advance of the meeting. This seems like an obvious one, but think about it: When is the last time you spent 15 to 30 minutes preparing for a meeting, thinking of what you want to say and how you will say it? This is exactly what this is about.

With the agenda of the meeting, I look at what I want to say, what contributions I should make. I usually won’t write tons, but just a few keywords or ideas that I want to bring forward.

I also collect some facts, numbers that I may need, so that I can reinforce my message. And lastly, I try to anticipate questions I may get and how I can best answer them if they come.

Take ME time before the meeting. 10 minutes before the meeting, I isolate myself (today I work from home, so it’s easier than in an office setting) and I use the routine I developed for me and that works for me. You may of course use anything that works for you:

  • I close my eyes and focus on my breathing.
  • I imagine myself speaking at the meeting.
  • I focus on the values that are important for me and that define who I am as a leader (I imagine myself speaking with these values).
  • I repeat to myself that “I AM READY!”

Focus on speaking, not the fear of speaking. This is now showtime and where I need to say what I prepared. At this point though, I am prepared and I have gone through my routine, so it is becoming more and more rare that I would fear to speak up. However this can still occasionally happen.

In cases where the fear of speaking up is still strong, I usually use a combination of several actions:

  • I try to speak first on a subject or question asked, and in any case, before any alpha personality in the meeting decides to steal the show.
  • I ask a question rather than make a statement.
  • I decide before the discussion starts how and if I want to contribute.
  • Make succinct, clear comments.

Buy myself time. Obviously, one of the things I can’t control in a meeting or discussion is what questions may be throwed at me. I can try to anticipate some of them when I prepare (see my first point above), but there will always be a question that I did not anticipate.

Instead of dreading these questions and stressing on being put on the hook for an answer, one approach I keep using when it is necessary is to buy me time. For instance, by saying “I’ll need to come back to you after the meeting with that answer / with more information on this.” It could just be that you don’t know the answer, and in that case, don’t shy away from saying it. A sentence like “I don’t have the answer now, and I will get it to you after the meeting.” is perfectly fine.


This is it really. My point here is to show that even as an introvert, there are ways to take your leadership to the right level by staying true to yourself. The key, as often in leadership, is self-awareness of what being an introvert means to you as a leader. And then, take action on it. Reflect on these questions:

  1. What is one thing that you are struggling with at the moment (as an introvert) that you would like to take action on to have better alignment with how you want to be as a leader?
  2. What routine/process/structure could you create to address that struggle? (Maybe following a simple approach like the one I explained above)
  3. What is an action you can take NOW (like next week) to work on your routine and be the introvert leader you aspire to be?


And for the extrovert leaders who read the newsletter, here are some tips to use when you have introverts in your team:

  • Don’t assume that when someone is silent, this means they don’t care about a discussion. Invite people to talk.
  • Give people advance notice when you know that you will call on them during a meeting.
  • Clarify how each of you likes to communicate (it may be per phone for the extrovert, per email for the introvert) and agree on how to make it work for both.
  • Give introverts time to speak, don’t interrupt them.
  • Make sure you distribute agenda, talking points before the meeting.
  • If you have a large group, do some of the discussions in smaller groups (or breakout rooms if virtual)
  • What else would you see as a way to better engage introverts?


Remember, nobody is asking you, as an introvert, to become an extrovert (and vice-versa). You need to understand how you can stay your true self, leverage skills and strengths that are unique to introverts, and at the same time find routines or processes that will help you as an introvert when you are struggling with anything that is not natural to you as an introvert.

I wish you a great read and great experimentation. I’ll see you next Saturday!

TL; DR (Too Long, Did not Read)

Introverts make successful leaders too. Finding your own routine to address things you are struggling with as an introvert will help you be a better leader. For instance, if you struggle to speak up, you could

  1. Prepare in advance of a meeting.
  2. Take ME time before the meeting to re-center and focus on who you are as an introvert leader, with your strengths and values.
  3. Focus on speaking, not on the fear of speaking.
  4. Buy yourself time.

Whenever you’re ready, there are 3 ways I can help you:

1️⃣ Work 1-1 with me to step up as the authentic leader you aspire to be.

2️⃣ Hire me to help you build a high-performing team.

3️⃣ Start with my affordable digital courses on Mastering Difficult Conversations for Leaders and Goal Setting