When most people think about leadership, they think of extroverts. Adjectives like “magnetic,” “energetic,” even “dominant” often come to mind. However, it takes all kinds to make up a successful organization, and introverts can be just as effective leaders as their extrovert colleagues.
Which is why I was excited to read Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Her book investigates the “extroversion ideal” and debunks the myth that extroverts make better leaders than introverts. According to Cain’s research, talkers are perceived as smarter than their quieter counterparts. “The more a person talks, the more other group members direct their attention to him/her, which means that he/she becomes increasingly powerful as a meeting goes on.” Oftentimes, this leads companies to make the wrong decisions—decisions that could be avoided if the time is taken to listen to the quieter points of view.
Toward the end of one chapter, Cain cites a Wall Street Journal cartoon showing a haggard executive looking at a chart of plummeting profits. “It’s all because of Fadkin,” the executive tells his colleague. “He has terrible business sense but great leadership skills, and everyone is following him down the road to ruin.”
In any company, both extroverts and introverts have their place. In fact, it’s the combination of the two—that diversity—that has the power to create strong organizations. The key is to take the time to consider the quieter point of view. We may speak softly, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have important things to say.