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  • Writer's pictureDr. Stacey Chimimba Ault

Restful Leadership for Black Introverts

Updated: Feb 6

Strategies for finding, and creating, meaningful rest in the workplace




Image: Black woman with curly hair sitting in front of a laptop with her fingers on her forehead


Black Introvert Week was founded by Jeri Bingham, creator of the Hush Loudly podcast, to empower and encourage introverts while educating others about this highly misunderstood personality type. As a rest researcher and scholar, who also identifies as an introvert, this week provides a perfect opportunity for me to explore how Black introverted femmes access rest in the workplace, and how employers can better support us .... because sis, I'm tired and humans wear me out.


Stereotypes have been ascribed to Black women across centuries of patriarchy and racial capitalism. These tropes have resulted in Black women being taught that we have to work "twice as hard to get hard as far". We rarely have the freedom to be shy, quiet or reserved. We definitely can't keep to ourselves. When we are reticent, we are accused of being stuck up or angry or not a team player. Introverts often thrive in 1:1 conversations and meaningful relationships. We often get to know people on a deeper level, especially those we work with. This can result in the disproportionate labor of holding everyone’s problems and being pushed into being the workplace mammy.


Restful leadership is an anti-racist, trauma informed and human centered approach to being well at work. It involves acknowledging the impact of white supremacy culture and exploitative work environments on individuals and working towards fostering an environment that enables everyone to recharge, recuperate and engage in a more restful and harmonious workflow.


Here are ten tips that you as a leader can use to manage stress effectively and prioritize rest for yourself, and your teams. These tips may require you to do some deep critical reflection (as an introvert, you will love this), and can be easily incorporated into your daily routine to help you minimize the stress and anxiety of work.


  1. Know and understand yourself and your environment: Learn about the ways in which trauma impacts people in the workplace and how white supremacy culture and racism is traumatic. Understanding the root causes of trauma can help you recognize your own triggers and respond accordingly (see point 2 and 3 below). Understanding your personality type can help you identify your strengths and areas of growth, as well as recognize what environments and situations may energize or drain you. Take personality assessments, such as Myers-Briggs, to gain insight into your personality type and preferences. I also love the Positive Intelligence Saboteur Assessment and the Interpersonal Leadership Style (ILS) tool.

  2. Create spaciousness: Introverts need more time to recharge and process information, and being in constant meetings or collaborating all day can be draining. Work to create a schedule that allows for more solo work time and minimizes back-to-back meetings. Starting a meeting at 15 after the hour, and finishing in 45 minutes rather than an hour, can help. Constant distractions, such as notifications from Slack, email, and texts, can be overstimulating for introverts. Turn that shit off, set your device on do-not-disturb, so you can focus. Leaders can help by setting boundaries around when employees need to be fully available, and encouraging employees to turn off notifications during heads-down work time. Heads-down days, office-hours, or "free fridays" are some ways you can institutionalize spaciousness.

  3. Practice setting boundaries: Introverts may struggle with setting boundaries, but it's important to establish limits on your time and energy in the workplace. If you have people-pleasing tendencies, you may feel like you are being "mean" when you say no ... work through this. You may never get to the place where your boundaries are guilt free, but oh well ... you have to prioritize you. Leaders can support employees by helping them practice setting boundaries and acknowledging the importance of prioritizing rest and self-care.

  4. Create space for introverts in collaborative settings: Introverts may feel less comfortable speaking up in large group meetings and may need more time to process information before offering an opinion. Leaders can help by providing agendas ahead of time, outlining key questions, and encouraging introverts to come prepared with their ideas. As an introvert, I make it a point to try and be the first person to speak when a question is asked. Not only does it prevent me from sitting anxiously waiting to be picked on, it allows me to set the bar, and tone, for the conversation.

  5. Trust your intuition: Decision-making can be challenging for introverts, but it's important to trust your intuition and rely on your personal values and principles to guide your choices. In white supremacy culture, "gut feelings" or "vibe checks" are often dismissed. Recognize your bias around this, and make space for all decision-making styles. Leaders can help by being clear about the decision-making process and acknowledging the importance of different perspectives and approaches. In addition, be mindful of power dynamics, especially in decision-making. Provide opportunities for people to participate in decision-making processes and advocate for historically marginalized and excluded voices.

  6. Recognize the emotional labor involved in introverted leadership: Introverted leaders may be expected to do emotional labor, such as taking care of other's feelings (being a work mammy), masking, and/or code-switching. This can be exhausting. Limit the energy you spend taking care of others, and prioritize disconnecting in order to recharge. Leaders can help by acknowledging and reducing these expectations and creating a culture that values authenticity and vulnerability.

  7. Create rituals: Rituals can help introverted leaders recharge and manage their energy. Create rituals that allow you to pause, reflect, and respond to situations with intention and focus, such as taking a few deep breaths before starting a task or taking a walk during lunch break. Build rituals (such as inhale/exhales, or check-ins) into your collaborative spaces. This allows introverts to better know what to expect, and gives you as a leader time to center and ground yourself.

  8. Be authentic and prioritize your well-being: Introverted leaders may feel pressure to conform to extroverted norms and behaviors, but it's important to prioritize your own well-being and be true to yourself. If your mental health is negatively impacted by a traumatic or toxic work environment that doesn't honor your unique way of working. If you have a disability that is impacting your ability to work (to be clear, introversion is not a disability) there are protections in the US and UK that mandate you receive the accommodations you need.

  9. Focus on "being" rather than "doing": Introverted leaders may feel pressured to constantly be productive and busy, but it's important to take time to just "be" and recharge. The workplace needs your unique approach to working, and your brilliant input. You, like all of us, will be more innovative, creative and focused when you are rested. Leaders can help by creating spaces where employees can relax and recharge, such as quiet rooms or meditation areas. Take a breath and make space for yourself.

  10. Disconnect from work. As an introvert, you spend a lot of time in your head. As a high-performing, ambitious leader it can be tempting to think about work all the time and bring work home. You might struggle to disconnect from work, however, creating time where you aren't thinking about work projects, deadlines, conversations, or to-dos is paramount to your wellbeing. Ask for help and accountability around this from people inside and outside your workplace. As a leader, you are also modeling for others the unspoken rules of engagement at work. It is not enough to tell others to prioritize themselves, if they see you overworking. Take a break sis ... your leadership depends on it.


As an introverted leader, which of these practices resonate with you the most? What do you struggle with? We would love to hear from you about things we might have missed.



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2 Comments


austin.rageproject
Feb 07

Hey Doc!


A lot of helpful tips in this one.I’d say lately, I’ve been focusing most on Number 9. It’s an area I’ve both made great strides in, but have ways to go.


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Guest
Feb 06

Loved how you spoke to what introverts can do, as well as what leaders in the workplace can do. I think it’s so important for bosses, directors, managers etc to understand they have a duty and are accountable to the overall workplace experience.


Personally, I found the spaciousness and rituals to be the most interesting. I definitely enjoy group work, but also appreciate heading to my office and politely closing my door. I also noted spacing out meeting a bit to allow for a brief recharge. Second, rituals make so much sense. Finding my own little creative ways to relax and destress within the workplace are essential. I tend to keep a diffuser in my personal work space as I…


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