I spent way too long trying to become an extrovert instead of harnessing my unique powers of my introversion.
As most introverts do, growing up, Susan received implicit messages about the insufficiency of introverts. But the truth is, we need introverts. When introverts don’t be introverted, everyone loses.
We should be thinking much more often about temperament pairings in leadership.
Temperament informs our person as deeply as does gender. And while to some degree, we’re all “Ambiverts” (there’s no such thing as a pure introvert or pure extrovert), we need to learn how to harness the power of introversion.
Introversion describes how you react to stimulation.
Introverts find quieter, less stimulating environments energizing. They prefer not to work with music playing, without distractions. Introverts also socialize in less stimulating ways: small groups or one-on-one environments over large parties.
Creating an Introvert-Friendly Culture
We used to be a “culture of character’, which was more introvert friendly. But we’ve transformed into a “first impression” culture. Introverts are often at a disadvantage.
If we want to lead introverts well, we have to embrace the truth that there’s no one-size-fits-all environment. We must let people control their own environments.
We structure our institutions to make the most of only extroverted temperament
- Most school work today is group work
- “Open office” models are more trendy
- Churches favor extroversion. Our worship gatherings tend to be big, loud and full of stimulation.
1/3 to 1/2 of the population is introverted. When we don’t structure environments to welcome introverts, we fail to engage a lot of people.
Why We Need Introverts
The most creative persons have a strong introverted streak.
The Value of Solitude: When you’re alone you’re not tainted by outside influences
(Star Trek TNG clip: THERE ARE FOUR LIGHTS!)
Groupthink actually changes how we think. Biochemically, we tend to believe the way the group thinks.
Groups tend to follow the most assertive person. This is not always a good thing.
3 steps to a Quiet Revolution
- Ask people to prepare before every meeting. Introverts need time to prepare.
- Individual brainstorming is better than corporate brainstorming. Electronic brainstorming takes advantage of both aspects, and is by far the strongest.
- Stop ½-way through a meeting and ask everyone to write down what they’re thinking, then have everyone read (to democratize the process)
2. Rethink Leadership
- Talking does not equal Leadership!
- We must flip our paradigm. Don’t ask people if they’re leaders, then offer to equip them. Instead, as something like,
Do you have a vision to make a difference in the world? If so, we’ll equip you.
This lets us capitalize on passion, not ability or personality.
- In nearly every religious tradition, solitude is associated with transcendence.
- We all (no matter our temperament) need to rediscover the value of solitude.