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How introverted architects can become effective business leaders

This professional feature discusses how the quiet power of introverted architects can help with career progression.

07 March 2024

Most people have a ready, in-built list of stereotypical characteristics that make up a business leader: larger-than-life personality, confident, assertive, possibly charismatic and definitely an extrovert.

But Carlo Magni, Associate at EPR Architects and self-confessed introvert, thinks the time has come for practices to wake up to the “quiet power of introverts” as team leaders and managers make more of their human resources.

These introverted leaders go against the stereotype and are not at all shouty or loud. Instead, they tend to be measured, considered and take time to build relationships on a deeper, more intimate level.

With this in mind, how can introverts take a step outside of their comfort zone and make the leap to a position that, on the surface, might not seem suited to their personality type?

The difference between introversion and extroversion. (Video: Psych2Go)

Why workplace culture needs to be challenged

Carlo says he spent the early part of his career believing that extrovert behaviour was essential to becoming a leader. In fact, he still believes that workplace culture tends to be oriented that way and needs to be challenged.

However, for some years management thinking has focused more on behavioural science and psychology than the all-empowered, ‘hero motivator’ archetype of decades past. Many practices are also making real efforts to address inclusivity and support the neurodiversity of their staff, which can, Carlo thinks, extend to different personality types. In fact, he thinks that introversion should be recognised as a similar characteristic deserving of management attention.

Carlo has spoken on team leadership at RIBA Future Leaders events in the past, but at the forthcoming RIBA Future Leaders 2024 he says he will be reaching out particularly to the introverts in the room to encourage them to step out of their comfort zones and step up to the leadership challenge.

For some years management thinking has focused more on behavioural science and psychology than the all-empowered, ‘hero motivator’ archetype of decades past. (Photo:

What are the key qualities of an introvert?

  • Creative thinking

Because introverts often inhabit a rich inner world of creativity and imagination, which can lead to innovation and producing creative solutions.

  • Keen observation leads to insight and empathy

Often having to take a step back from the crowd, introverts tend to listen and look before making a decision. This can lead to introverts perhaps noticing things that others do not. This, in turn, can lead to a greater understanding of a person or a situation.

  • Active listeners

Introverts tend to thrive best in smaller groups of people, which lends itself to listening in one-on-one interactions without distractions. Conversely, extroverts tend to jump into a conversation “before processing what the other person has said” because they process information in a different way to introverts, who generally process information internally.

  • Looking for details

It’s said that introverts process information and data intuitively and look at the details in a more detailed way than extroverts.

  • Meaningful connections

Networking might feel like anathema to introverts, but while being in large groups seems like the natural habitat of the extrovert, introverts approach these situations with a ‘quality not quantity’ mindset. Quietly making connections in one-on-one or smaller groups can lead to deeper, more meaningful and longer-lasting connections.

[Sources: Indeed and Time]

Introverts might have to make more of a conscious effort to self-promote and establish their leadership credentials in a work setting, which will take them out of their comfort zone. (Photo:

How can introverts operate in teams?

In larger practices there is a huge emphasis on team working, and Carlo, a team leader and management trainer himself, recognises that every substantial project has to be managed within a team environment. But he cautions that teamwork should not become a dogma to the extent that it does not allow space – either physically in the studio, or intellectually – for some solitary thinking.

Team brainstorming is great for generating quick ideas, but history suggests the big, game-changing creative idea is more likely to come to an individual after some uninterrupted thinking, he points out.

Team managers therefore have to find a way to respect and value members who may sometimes want to hide away in a metaphorical closet to concentrate and work their ideas through without interruption.

Instead, extroverts are energised by social interaction and being the centre of attention, and so crucially for the would-be team leader, self-promotion tends to come more easily. Introverts, however, will be re-energised by time alone or with a very small group of people, when they have time to think and consider things, and will find that extended periods of social interaction drain their energy.

“I’m definitely an introverted person and happy to stay at home reading a book,” Carlo admits. “I know that if I stay in a networking event for hours, I will feel exhausted by the end of the night. It’s not a matter of being anti-social, it’s just the way that an introvert’s energy levels tend to operate.”

This means that introverts might have to make more of a conscious effort to self-promote and establish their leadership credentials in a work setting, which, compared to the extrovert, will take them out of their comfort zone. Carlo accepts that this as a simple fact of life, but one that good practice managers that take the trouble to get to know their staff should be receptive to.

What practical steps can introverts take?

Carlo says that there are practical steps that can be taken by introverts who like the idea of leading but feel that it might be one step too far. It all starts with self-awareness. Most introverts will already have a sense of where they stand in terms of who they are and whether they are introverted or extroverted, but an online personality test will help to confirm their type.

It is always a good thing to declare yourself as an introvert to team members, Carlo argues. You do not need to excuse yourself for not being a larger-than-life character.

He continues: “As soon as you declare yourself, you are showing your vulnerability, though from my experience everyone will appreciate it and you will create stronger personal connections. As a leader, being vulnerable is actually very powerful these days.”

In terms of day-to-day life of an introverted leader, Carlo says that they might fulfil their duties better if they take time to prepare for important meetings and presentations. Whereas an extrovert may be able to wing it, the introvert will do better to build their confidence through preparation to reach a level of confidence others might reach normally.

Carlo also recommends consciously focusing on your engagement with others as a way of building your ‘presence’ in a group, even if this is feels on the inauthentic side for you. You may need to overcompensate for the introvert’s tendency to come over as less engaged or lacking enthusiasm even when this is just not the case.

But the key is practice, practice, practice as much as possible. Carlo says that taking deliberate decisions to speak in meetings, at conference events, icebreaking at networking events in a way that is comfortable to you, facilitating groups and storytelling are all exercises that can help to establish leadership status and authority.

“The most important advice is to respect your personality and push outside your comfort zone as much as you can and as regularly as you can. There is no growth without change,” he concludes.

RIBA Future Leaders 2024 takes place between 30 April-18 June, and consists of two in-person conference events featuring architects like Carlo and a separate on-demand CPD course from industry experts that is curated and recorded especially for Future Leaders 2024. The event provides early career professionals with a comprehensive introduction to leadership through industry-specific training, as well as live sessions on key soft skills from experienced coaches, communication experts, and thought leaders and architects. Purchase your ticket at an early-bird rate (expires 11 March 2024).

Thanks to Carlo Magni, Associate, EPR Architects.

Text by Neal Morris. This is a Professional Feature edited by the RIBA Practice team. Send us your feedback and ideas

RIBA Core Curriculum topic: Business, clients and services.

As part of the flexible RIBA CPD programme, professional features count as microlearning. See further information on the updated RIBA CPD core curriculum and on fulfilling your CPD requirements as an RIBA Chartered Member.

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