While traveling last week, I read a fascinating book titled "Quiet" by Susan Cain, who makes the case that Western culture undervalues the traits and capabilities of introverted people. I chose the book because, despite appearances, I am an introvert.
I love my work with clients, am comfortable (enough) with public speaking, and am able to make quick decisions as needed. But all of those activities drain me, and I need several hours of quiet to rejuvenate after most of my routine business engagements. I often refer to myself as a forced extrovert - meaning that I have to summon all my reserve energy to be capable of engaging with people at the level they expect for my job type - but I'm really an introvert that is using my quiet, reflective time to prepare for my work and recuperate after it.
Interestingly, as I read Cain's book, it occurred to me that any success I've had in my work may be because I'm an introvert. Introverted people are known to think things through before they speak, and enjoy one-on-one time. Research suggests introverted leaders may draw the most potential out of a team of self-starters. Introverts are typically considered to be better listeners, and often ask more questions. They also are generally calm and collected, which can be soothing in noisy and chaotic organizations.
Cain (and others) have argued that many excellent leaders are overlooked because of their introversion. I hope that hasn't been the case for any of you who read this blog post, but if it has, take heart, because more and more researchers and writers are extolling the leadership traits of introverts. And as more and more successful and admired people (e.g. Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett) are recognized as introverts, I believe the extroversion-bias that may exist in leadership will fade.
Here's to quiet leadership,