Introverts have had an overdue moment in recent years: their unique talents are finally gaining the praise they deserve. Since her 2012 TED talk on introversion, Susan Cain has advocated for school and work environments to stop always rewarding those who shout the loudest. Her work isn’t in vain. Misnomers still exist that introverts can’t be great leaders— including project managers (PMs).
Introversion isn’t shyness or antisocial behavior. It simply means that some people gain their energy from themselves rather than from other people (like extroverts).
Extroverts recharge by interacting with others; introverts recharge by being alone.
Unfortunately, some take this to mean that introverted people can’t be effective leaders— or project managers. Project leaders in corporations from Bank of America to Intel say that extroversion is essential to lead project teams.
It doesn’t get easier for introverted project managers who want to climb the corporate ladder. Unconscious bias that equates extroversion with strong leadership can prevent introverts from getting promoted.
If you’re an introvert, then you already know that you have secret strengths. Introverts tend to shine in one-on-one conversations. This skill can help them sway stakeholders.
Introverts also tend to refrain from making rash decisions. This can boost the chance that they’ll deliver projects on time and under budget.
Their observational nature makes introverts excel at designing teams of people who must think for themselves. Subsequently, they can ask the right questions to draw team members out of their shells and help everyone get on the same page.
The best project management books for introverts
All of these skills mean that introverts can make excellent project managers. Luckily, there’s no shortage of books to help them succeed.
With thousands of project management books out there, we wanted to help introverts find the most relevant titles. So, we’ve shared the best project management books for introverts.
Not all of these are “project management books” as such. Some of these books discuss leadership at a high level; others are written for new or accidental project managers. But all of them will give you the tools to lead successful project teams.
Read on to learn more about:
High level leadership
By David Allen
We’re told as airplane passengers to put our own oxygen masks on before helping others. David Allen’s “GTD” ethos applies this concept to work. His book is a must-read to help all project leaders prioritize and delegate tasks.
But it has special relevance for introverts. GTD’s essence is to help you get ideas out of your head into a trusted system (like software) to use regularly. This method helps you prioritize your most crucial tasks and ID the next best steps to complete these tasks. GTD prioritizes focus— a trait that introverts often have in spades. That focus can become your secret weapon.
By Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, Ph.D
Dr. Kahnweiler is known as the “champion of introverts.” She has written several books on introversion and leadership. The Introverted Leader is especially relevant for PMs: it dispels the myth that introverts can’t harness their strengths as successful managers.
Using a “4P” approach —Prepare, Presence, Push, and Practice— Dr. Kahnweiler shares how introverts can thrive in roles of influence. The book includes pointers for project management, which Dr. Kahnweiler elaborates on here.
By Mindy Gibbins-Klein
As mentioned above, introverts draw their energy from being alone with their thoughts and ideas. The trick is to polish those ideas and then share them in a way that inspires others to act.
Gibbins-Klein wants to redirect “thought leadership” from managers who shout the loudest to leaders with the most impactful ideas. The Thoughtful Leader will teach you how to do this.
By Patrick Lencioni
In a narrative style that’s unique among management books, Lencioni shares how internal politics can derail projects. He tells the story of a fictional CEO to show readers the five dysfunctions. Then, he shares how to redirect each dysfunction (like fear of conflict) to build positive dynamics (like constructive debate).
Teams leads of all types can learn from this book’s lessons. Since introverts often know how to ask the right questions, they’ll see themselves in these situations.
By Susan Cain
Susan Cain wrote “the book” on introversion. She argues that although roughly one-third of people are introverts, we design institutions for “the extrovert ideal.” This causes us all to lose introverts’ unique gifts.
Although it’s not a “project management” book, Quiet is a must-read for introverted project leaders. It dispels the myth of charismatic leadership, talks about the perils of “over-collaboration,” how to bridge communications gaps, and more.
Accidental project management
By Harvey Robbins and Michael Finley
Many project managers fall into this role, but how should you successfully lead teams when you don’t have direct authority?
In The Accidental Leader, Robbins and Finley share tips to overcome this challenge. This involves knowing how you can uniquely contribute, persuade colleagues, and harness your inner strengths.
By Jack Ferraro, PMP
Project management techniques and tools aren’t always the easiest to grasp. That’s why this book is a must-read if you’re in the process of becoming a new project owner.
Ferraro uses case studies, guidelines, and illustrations to teach traditional managers the basics of project management. His goal is to help readers see how projects impact everyone, from colleagues to customers.
By Kory Kogon, Suzette Blakemore, and James Wood
Today’s projects move more quickly than ever. That’s one of many reasons why you might find yourself helming a project without formal training.
If you’re expected to lead projects without the title or resources, this book will guide you through the unknown. From planning and executing to controlling and closing, you’ll learn how to lead successful projects— and the people on teams that bring them to life.
By Mike Leavitt and Rich McKeown
Networking plays a key role in project success. But how should you do it as an introvert?
Finding Allies, Building Alliances helps introverted PMs play to their strengths finding solutions to large problems— and sharing those solutions with peers. This book also includes a framework to help PMs lead collaborative projects.
By Peter F. Drucker
The most effective PMs know how to seek new solutions for problems and stop doing unproductive work. Drucker’s book on this subject shares how business success rests on strategy— not extroversion.
He uses a series of five practices to help project managers become more effective. The key takeaway? All of them can be learned. This means that anyone can improve at them and become a successful project leader.
By Simon Sinek
Strategy is the start of every great project. Even the most charismatic PMs can’t drive meaningful change without it.
Sinek’s book shares that project success involves getting everyone —from project team members to senior stakeholders— on board with your vision. His framework, The Golden Circle, teaches PMs how to share a vision that inspires teams and fosters loyalty.
By Cesar Abeid, PMP
Not sure what your project’s “why” is? Project Management For You will help you find it.
Abeid uses project management principles to show how the most successful leaders make big promises and deliver them. This book is ideal for experienced PMs who need a reminder that everything in their lives is a project.
By Scott Berkun
As a former project lead at Microsoft, Scott Berkun has hands-on project management expertise. Much of his work was technical in nature, but Berkun knows that people are the heart of project success— and uses his book to explain why.
From the best ways to manage ideas to tactics for not annoying people, Making Things Happen will help introverted PMs excel at work.
By Terry Schmidt
You already know that strategy’s the heart of great projects, but strategy won’t work without strong execution.
Smith believes that most projects fail not due to strategy, but the lack of plans for how to see them through. Strategic Project Management Made Simple helps readers design projects and action initiatives.
By Todd C. Williams, PMP
Let’s be honest: no one likes to fail. The popular “fail fast” mantra doesn’t ease your pain when projects go awry.
Rescue the Problem Project helps project leaders eschew the blame game in times of trouble. Williams shares techniques to find the root causes of problematic projects, and which steps will bring these projects back on track.
Want more advice on project management?
Read these articles to learn which leaders you should follow:
- 20 project management experts to follow on Twitter
- 10 experts for Agile project managers to follow on Twitter
- 10 women in project management to follow on Twitter
Which project management books did we miss? Share your favorite titles in the comments!