I am loving this book. Author, Susan Cain, discusses how much we lose in undervaluing introverts…how well known figures like Eleanor Roosevelt, Warren Buffet and Gandhi, achieved what they did, not in spite of but because of their introversion. This book: Quiet, is so worth a read, even if you’re not an introvert. It’ll help you understand ‘the other side’ better and develop stronger relationships, both personal and in the business realm. Some studies say one out of every two or three people is an introvert. So I’m sure you know a few.
Cain chronicles the rise of the extrovert ideal in the 20th century and its extreme impact on our current society; how it has shifted from a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality. “Introversion—along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness—is now a second-class personality trait…”
Talkers are often perceived as smarter. Yet, “…there’s zero correlation between the gift of gab and good ideas.”
Stay with me. I’m going somewhere with this…and it’s not to bash the extreme extrovert over the head. I believe we need both extroverts and introverts. Two halves to a whole. But one shouldn’t be made to feel ‘less’ than the other.
Cain’s stories of successful, introvert leaders were especially interesting to me. She makes a very good point about needing to delineate between good presentation skills and true leadership ability. Common traits used to describe some highly successful leaders were: quiet, humble, modest, reserved, shy, gracious, mild-mannered, self-effacing, understated. Not the traits that first come to mind when you think of CEOs, are they? So, how do they manage? Cain and those she interviewed argue these introverted leaders build not their own egos, but the institutions they run. They are interested in listening and gathering information more than asserting opinion or dominating a conversation. They truly build their team.
Where Soft Power Comes In
My favorite part (at least so far, since I haven’t finished the book yet) refers to how introverts might not like the spotlight or speaking in public, but they will push themselves to endure it because a cause matters that much to them. Their strength lies in their ideas and heart. They…”rally people to their cause through conviction rather than dynamism.” They change lives by their caring. Their strength comes from substance. They focus. They carry on without getting sidetracked. They have quiet persistence. In particular, it makes me wonder how many non-profits are run by introverts.
What have you felt so strongly about that it forced you out of your comfort zone? Or have you felt because you’re more a quiet type, you didn’t have anything to offer? Let’s just dispel that right now, shall we?