Monday, October 15, 2012

Introverted leadership


The introverted leader: is this an oxymoron? In my experience: definitely not. And, my experience aligns well with Susan Cain's popular book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

And by introverted, we mean: Someone who gets more energy out of quiet time--loner time, even if in an open plan--than they do mixing in a group. Indeed, mixing in a group discharges an introvert. An extrovert is just the opposite: they discharge during loner times and charge up by absorbing the energy of the crowd.

My definition certainly doesn't mean an introvert is paralyzed by public speaking, can't socialize, or draw from a group/team/crowd. Far from it: some introverts are quite eloquent in public, very approachable, and get a lot from a group experience.

I like to talk about the professional extrovert and the private introvert. Extroverts are often the rewarded ones, the admired, and the influential. So, priviate introverts train themselves to be extroverts.

In the professional setting, you may be hard pressed to pick out the introverts until you notice who leaves first: they do. When they become discharged, they simply leave to get the recharge from the loner setting.

And, they can be good leaders. James T. Brown writes (in his book "The handbook of program managment") that to be a good leader, “a program manager needs to have an ingrained sense of organizational mission, must lead and have the presence of a leader, must have a vision and strategy for long-term organizational improvement, must be a relationship builder, and must have the experience and ability to assess people and situations beyond their appearances.

PM Brown says nothing about being a natural extrovert, a professional extrovert, or really anything of personality, except for "presence of a leader". In other domains, this is called "command presence", the aura of confidence that naturally attracts those looking for direction, safety, order, and back-up.

 "They" say that some of our most notable Presidents of the US  have been introverts....a job that requires an extraordinary public appeal--usually a bane of introverts--to get elected in the first place and remain politically popular and influential once in office. If so...my case is made.
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