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Why Female Introverts Can Be Powerful Leaders

Career

I've always been an introvert, and a female, two categories which aren't exactly promoted in the business world. For the past 8 years, I've also been in leadership roles. I am, therefore, writing this to argue in favor of the introverts and females out there, and also, to help anyone become a better leader. It's as simple as this: communication.


“Originality thrives in seclusion free of outside influences beating upon us to cripple the creative mind. Be alone – that is the secret of invention: be alone, that is when ideas are born." – Nikola Tesla

This is the topic of my first book, releasing August 21, 2018 titled 10 Skills for Effective Communication: Lessons from the World's Greatest Leaders. It is a user's manual based on my comprehensive research on communication, beginning with being a terribly shy communicator, to now, a marketing and communications professional. Below are a few lessons that I have learned to help you scale your influence, regardless of how you are labeled.

First, Get Your Mind Right

Becoming a great leader begins with a belief. You must actually believe that you can do it. Herein lies the problem with titles like female or introvert, and any other title of the sort: it has absolutely nothing to do with business but everything to do with belief. Our culture teaches us to believe in certain things, therefore we do.

If you grew up your entire life believing that you couldn't be something then it's really hard to wake up one day thinking entirely differently. However, it is absolutely true that you can do anything. There is your culture around you, yes, but that doesn't mean you must agree with it.

There are a lot of biases in the world of business today, and they explain a lot about our culture. Leadership roles are predominately held by men. Introverts and women are far less likely to make it through your average hiring process, and far more likely to get stuck inside their role, without advancement, if they do get the job.

So we have our status quo, and everyone seems fine with that, so long as you're in the majority. The male extrovert types just think that they are better leaders, and success is about their skills, even if not entirely (or at all) the truth.

The truth about leadership is that good leadership requires a high level of empathy. Leaders must sense and react to the cultural trends of their customers and their internal teams. Leaders need to be great listeners. They need to be able to make sound judgments with quick reaction times. A great leader is a person who delivers for their shareholders, their employees and their customers, all at once.

Notice that absolutely none of this has to do with extroversion or being a man.

Elon Musk employs First Principles Thinking, a process by which you break a concept down into its most basic components, and then use logic and common sense to come up with the best alternate solution.

For leadership, the best solution may be that personality types and genders don't have much to do with the role at all. Or, there may even be certain personality types that businesses are not capitalizing on now, but could yield greater results.

Next, Develop the Right Skills

Becoming a great leader is absolutely not an innate talent. Leadership is not birthright. Birth-right may get you a position, sure, but we've all seen the vast difference between a leader and someone with just the title. The title is what you do, and leadership is when you do it in a way that inspires and motivates others to do, as well. Here are three communication skills from my book that will help guide you.

Listen. Annoying bosses talk at you, and feeling that you are unheard can be quite demotivating. I have learned over time from many great leaders that the person who listens most can be the most powerful. This is a natural fit for introverts. We talk less and listen more. Listening is what allows you to empathize, which is a key to influence.

Empathize. The second step is to truly understand the person, or people, that you wish to lead. So much is lost in between your words and your crowd's ears. The art of listening isn't about hearing, but understanding what is truly being said.

Enroll. Thirdly, give people what they want. If you can take what you want, and recraft it to be of mutual benefit to the person you need to inspire, well that's how motivation is born. When you put everyone on the same team with a common goal, you're far more likely to achieve an optimal result.

Finally, Trust the Stats. You Are More Powerful Than You Think
Research at Harvard found that female CEOs create higher ROI on their investments, but still receive less investment than male CEOs[1]. This is what we call a bargain. Women may just be that undervalued asset that over delivers on value.

Introverts, on the other hand, spend more brain power in the thinking and reasoning side, and less on the socializing side. Introverts tend to speak less, but tend to make statements that are more well-thought out than their extroverted counterparts. When it comes to making the sound judgments a business needs, First Principles Thinking would suggest that introverts would be better suited decision makers.

Introverts, on the other hand, spend more brain power in the thinking and reasoning side, and less on the socializing side. Introverts tend to speak less, but tend to make statements that are more well-thought out than their extroverted counterparts. When it comes to making the sound judgments a business needs, First Principles Thinking would suggest that introverts would be better suited decision makers.

There is a similar case to be made for any type of person. My point being, leverage what makes you unique. You can't “average" your way to the top, after all.

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Health

How This CEO Is Using Your Period To Prevent Chronic Diseases

With so many groundbreaking medical advances being revealed to the world every single day, you would imagine there would be some advancement on the plethora of many female-prevalent diseases (think female cancers, Alzheimer's, depression, heart conditions etc.) that women are fighting every single day.


For Anna Villarreal and her team, there frankly wasn't enough being done. In turn, she developed a method that diagnoses these diseases earlier than traditional methods, using a pretty untraditional method in itself: through your menstrual blood.

Getting from point A to point B wasn't so easy though. Villarreal was battling a disease herself and through that experience. “I wondered if there was a way to test menstrual blood for female specific diseases," she says. "Perhaps my situation could have been prevented or at least better managed. This led me to begin researching menstrual blood as a diagnostic source. For reasons the scientific and medical community do not fully understand, certain diseases impact women differently than men. The research shows that clinical trials have a disproportionate focus on male research subjects despite clear evidence that many diseases impact more women than men."

There's also no denying that gap in women's healthcare in clinical research involving female subjects - which is exactly what inspired Villarreal to launch her company, LifeStory Health. She says that, “with my personal experience everything was brought full circle."

“There is a challenge and a need in the medical community for more sex-specific research. I believe the omission of females as research subjects is putting women's health at risk and we need to fuel a conversation that will improve women's healthcare.,"

-Anna Villarreal

Her brand new biotech company is committed to changing the women's healthcare market through technology, innovation and vocalization and through extensive research and testing. She is working to develop the first ever, non-invasive, menstrual blood diagnostic and has partnered with a top Boston-area University on research and has won awards from The International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering and Northeastern University's RISE.

How does it work exactly? Proteins are discovered in menstrual blood that can quickly and easily detect, manage and track diseases in women, resulting in diseases that can be earlier detected, treated and even prevented in the first place. The menstrual blood is easy to collect and since it's a relatively unexplored diagnostic it's honestly a really revolutionary concept, too.

So far, the reactions of this innovative research has been nothing but excitement. “The reactions have been incredibly positive." she shares with SWAAY. “Currently, menstrual blood is discarded as bio waste, but it could carry the potential for new breakthroughs in diagnosis. When I educate women on the lack of female subjects used in research and clinical trials, they are surprised and very excited at the prospect that LifeStory Health may provide a solution and the key to early detection."

To give a doctor's input, and a little bit more of an explanation as to why this really works, Dr. Pat Salber, MD, and Founder of The Doctor Weighs In comments: “researchers have been studying stem cells derived from menstrual blood for more than a decade. Stem cells are cells that have the capability of differentiating into different types of tissues. There are two major types of stem cells, embryonic and adult. Adult stem cells have a more limited differentiation potential, but avoid the ethical issues that have surrounded research with embryonic stem cells. Stem cells from menstrual blood are adult stem cells."

These stem cells are so important when it comes to new findings. “Stem cells serve as the backbone of research in the field of regenerative medicine – the focus which is to grow tissues, such as skin, to repair burn and other types of serious skin wounds.

A certain type of stem cell, known as mesenchymal stem cells (MenSCs) derived from menstrual blood has been found to both grow well in the lab and have the capability to differentiate in various cell types, including skin. In addition to being used to grow tissues, their properties can be studied that will elucidate many different aspects of cell function," Dr. Salber explains.

To show the outpour of support for her efforts and this major girl power research, Villarreal remarks, “women are volunteering their samples happily report the arrival of their periods by giving samples to our lab announcing “de-identified sample number XXX arrived today!" It's a far cry from the stereotype of when “it's that time of the month."

How are these collections being done? “Although it might sound odd to collect menstrual blood, plastic cups have been developed to use in the collection process. This is similar to menstrual products, called menstrual cups, that have been on the market for many years," Dr. Salber says.

Equally shocking and innovative, this might be something that becomes more common practice in the future. And according to Dr. Salber, women may be able to not only use the menstrual blood for early detection, but be able to store the stem cells from it to help treat future diseases. “Companies are working to commercialize the use of menstrual blood stem cells. One company, for example, is offering a patented service to store menstrual blood stem cells for use in tissue generation if the need arises."