Taja is Founder and CEO of Pulp+Wire, an award-winning, full-service consumer packaging, branding, and marketing agency in Portland, Maine.
It’s a common scenario for many CEOs to be natural introverts, yet trained extroverts: they focus on the day-to-day work of running a business or agency, dealing with clients, leading strategy sessions, fostering employee growth, creating a positive work culture, and the run out of time to champion their own brand.
For many, it’s a struggle of the ego: it’s easy to prioritize sales and strategy meetings over focusing on putting yourself out there, when it doesn’t feel intrinsically natural. But in the current world we work in, leaders need to be public facing, whether it’s increasing public speaking opportunities, podcasts, launching and maintaining social media accounts or publishing thought leadership articles.
Many CEOs know they need to do more to support their own business and brands, but struggle with how to do it. It can feel narcissistic and egotistical to self promote, and thus it’s easier to put it aside and instead focus on clients versus yourself. Interestingly enough, introverted leaders are usually incredible at promoting their clients and teams. It’s when the spotlight is focused on them that they retreat.
Here are three ways introverted leaders can work to develop and boost their visibility.
1. Be Brave
As a leader, you’re most likely pushing and encouraging your employees to step outside their comfort zone and learn new skills or take on more responsibility. This should be true for you too! As a leader, it’s just as important to push yourself. As you decide how to best step into the spotlight, it is OK to say no to opportunities, particularly if they don’t feel true to you. If it’s something you don’t believe in or creates discomfort, definitely skip it. It is OK to say no to an opportunity if it is not right for you, but don’t just say no out of fear. Sometimes the things we are most fearful of lead to the biggest growth moments once we realize that we can conquer them.
Introverts naturally aren’t ones to step into the limelight, which can lead to knee-jerk reactions when they’re asked to self-promote. It’s helpful to remember that the company isn’t solely about the leader, it’s about the team, clients and the growing brand as a whole. When you look through the lens of the company instead of yourself, it’s easier to find the motivation to put yourself out there.
2. Be Authentic
As you begin to find your outward, more public persona, it’s critical to stay authentic to yourself. Yes, you’re stepping outside your comfort zone, but you can still be yourself. If it feels contrived, it will feel wrong not only to you, but to the audience. Find your authentic self within, and put it out there.
Introverts may feel that they’re indulging their ego by creating content focused on themselves, or feel imposter syndrome. It’s important to remember that this isn’t about you, it’s about raising the company’s profile. The end goal is always awareness of the company, which can help take the pressure off.
3. Be Creative
While self-promotion for the sake of company awareness is important, at the end of the day, CEOs still need time to run their company. Increasing your visibility doesn’t mean posting Instagram stories every 15 minutes or booking a lecture every week. There are plenty of ways to be more public facing while also respecting the finite amount of hours in a day.
One tried-and-true way is to position yourself as a thought leader. You can be an industry expert talking about trends and forecasts within your space, leadership strategies and career growth or any topic you’re passionate about. Bottom line, the goal with thought leadership is to get your ideas out there. The best way to kickstart this strategy is with blog posts or written articles. These can be posted to your website, or have your PR and marketing team start pitching your articles to industry publications.
One of the best ways I’ve seen leaders raise their visibility through thought leadership is by launching podcasts. Successful ones are usually industry specific and employ an interview format. This allows the host to raise their profile, while also interviewing other leaders in the space, lending credibility all around. The more you put yourself out there, the more you’ll find yourself presented with new opportunities—and perhaps most important, potential leads!
In the year 2022, introverted leaders need to work hard to step outside from behind the scenes, and start to craft and promote their public persona. Not only will this help with personal and professional growth, it will help raise company awareness and generate growth for you and your collective team.