“Suddenly it’s not just about who talks the most, but rather, who is actually getting stuff done.”
Talking the most may be a winning strategy for in-person situations but the new reality of virtual work may tilt the focus away from the big talkers and on to the big doers. Are highly sensitive people doers?Let’s look at what was described as the most appropriate skill set for virtual leadership: organized, dependable and productive. We know that HSPs prefer for things to be done well, even to a perfectionist level, which comes with its own baggage, of course. HSPs are known to be the most conscientious members of just about any team. It is simply part of their trait, sensory processing sensitivity, to carefully think through the consequences of proposed actions BEFORE taking the actions. Being productive is presumed as part of being both conscientious and organized.
So, are HSPs now in the leadership seat that some may have always desired and knew they could do well at? Possibly, but let’s not discount the sheer bluster and braggadocio of extravert leaders and likely unwillingness and inability to adapt and/or allow quieter people to lead. It’s very likely that online meetings will still be dominated by the big talkers, who simply do not know any other to negotiate reality, other than out loud.
I suggest a strategic leadership style that acknowledges the volume of big talking leaders, while taking advantage of our superior online leadership abilities. Do you really want to be the mouthpiece of the team or would you rather be the planner who actually gets things done by connecting people to needed resources, providing timely and responsive feedback when it is most needed, and showing leadership to be more than talking loudly? I would vote for the latter and have seen this unfold in my life as a virtual leader.
In person, I am quieter and more observant but being online changes the dynamic entirely, especially if the communication loop is emails, texts, and short calls. My superior ability to see the big picture, while attending to the details has made me a valuable part of every team that I find myself on. It is also easier virtually to reach out to others who may be able to help you when you need it.
What may feel threatening and anxiety-producing in person carries no such weight when sending an email or other textual communication. What about the virtual meetings you ask? How do I carry out the role of virtual leader when I am live online? It feels anxiety-producing! It sure does! I feel it myself when I have to do anything live, whether it’s a “simple” phone call, Zoom chat, or live meeting. It’s just as possible to stumble over your words, to appear disorganized, or to feel high anxiety as it is in person.
My observation after having done this for some time? You’ll get better at it the more you do it.HSPs and HSS/HSPs may make very good performers and can “play” a role well enough to appear to be what others expect or need from a live meeting. I’ve done it, so don’t think that you cannot develop your public speaking skills with practice. With virtual meetings, you still have the advantage of being more relaxed in your own home than you would be in a room full of people where you can control very little. Think about it: at home you can control the physical environment almost entirely. Too hot? You can fix that. Too cold? You can fix that too! Too claustrophobic from too many people in one cramped office? No problem, at home, it’s just you!
Set up your home office with what works for you to feel relaxed and balanced. I have lots of plants, books, and lots of light because that makes me feel my best. You may prefer less light or no plants and instead prefer a scent in the air or to work at night. So many of the things that drive HSPs bonkers in office settings are suddenly no longer an issue. There may be new issues as a result of setting up at home but adapt your life to work with that in whatever ways work best for you. Is this a good time for HSP leaders to shine? You betcha!
Empowering The Sensitive Male Soul Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and CareerThrill: The High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person(text and audio book available for all above)