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Susan Cain - Introverted Leaders

I go to parties with an extrovert. That way they can do all the talking, and I can just stand there and eat all the cheese. Simon Sinek

An introvert loses energy from every social interaction, whereas an extrovert gains energy from social interactions.

An introvert wakes up in the morning with five coins: every social interaction costs a coin and by the end of the day they are depleted. An extrovert gets a coin from every interaction and feels better at the end of the day after five interactions.

A third to a half of the population are introverts. That's one out of every 2 - 3 people you know. There's a bias in our society that is internalized deeply in us. It's not being shy. Shyness is a fear of social judgment. It's more about how you respond to stimulation.

Our institutions are designed mostly for extroverts and their need for external stimulation. This is sad because introverted leaders often get better results than extroverts. They listen to others' ideas and go with a collaboration of the best ideas. Everyone is on a different spot on the spectrum of introversion or extroversion. Carl Rogers said that there's no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in a lunatic asylum. We need a better balance between these extremes in the spectrum. Solitude is a necessary element to get to creativity. Introverts need time to reflect before having to engage.

I remember my school cohort was an intimidating room full of 100 people. Class discussions were modelled by students sitting at tables of 4-6 people, talking about an issue, and then the microphone was handed to every table. One person represented the thoughts of the table to the whole group. Having to prove myself in an environment of strangers truly wasn't helpful. I needed to be able to process things on my own and then interact in a different way. It was expected that we all interact with a spotlight on us without having first had time to digest the new information.

This is an example of how our schools and workplaces (ex. open work spaces) are modelled more for extroverts. Society favors the man of action vs. the man of contemplation. We need space for both introverts and extroverts to be able to process information in ways that support their different strengths. Society tends to shame so many of us introverts, when what we bring to the table is important too. We need to teach kids to work together, but we also need to help kids learn to think independently on their own. Deep thought, new ideas, and creativity comes from there.

Here are some specific strategies introverted leaders can utilize to become better leaders:

  1. Find different ways to bring your ideas to the table: ex. pursuing more conversation with an individual after a big group meeting, following up over email, returning to previous conversations 1:1 after having given an issue your thoughtfulness.

  2. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Learn to think out aloud. Include others in brainstorming.

  3. Use listening skills to create trust and build rapport. One of the greatest projections people make about introverts is that they are great listeners. Use this to your advantage.

  4. Reflect back what you’ve heard. People want to know that they have been heard.

  5. Involve others and articulate your thinking. Share information freely. Introverts have a habit of delivering full-blown solutions or edicts without articulating the thought process or motivation behind them, so learn to articulate your thinking and involve others.

  6. Be accessible. Engage others substantially. Network!

  7. Followers need to see you. They need to trust and understand you. They need to think you have their best interests at heart. So get out there.

  8. Take care of your solitude. Carve out specific times of solitude for recharging yourself.

Introverted Leaders: Seven Tips for Success (

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