Introversion Revisited

Just when you think you’ll have time to write, life intervenes it seems. In the next while I’ll concentrate on interesting tidbits. In the online HR MBA class I assist with this article justifying introverts in business got some good discussion and seemed to reassure people they had a chance to get ahead.

It correctly notes about 40% of leaders in business (and elsewhere) are actually introverts. That shouldn’t be such a surprise, but it usually is. Being quiet, thoughtful and liking ‘alone time’ has never stopped actors, singers, speakers and leaders in other supposedly ‘extraverted’ endeavors from excelling. It’s not as clearly understood as other ‘obvious’ leadership traits that we are normally trained to think of, but introversion can contribute a lot. We need balance, and who better to understand how to balance the demands for being out in public with thoughtfulness than people who can see both.

In a presentation I have coming up for a senior university class on leadership, I thought I should show some photos of myself as a kid so these younger students could related to the gray-haired, bespectacled guy in front of them – someone who was a super shy, introverted kid who ultimately was able to learn to succeed as an executive and speaker. To me the transformation has always seemed almost unbelievable. I dragged out some old shots and was surprised to find I didn’t look as scrawny and geeky as I thought and I could actually see the progress, in increments, from that kid to the full fledged executive I ultimately became.

Geeky kid?                    Union leader                   Senior Executive 
The kid………..             the union leader………          the graying executive.

So I thought I’d go find a photo of someone somewhat ‘geeky’ looking like what I had in my mind when I thought of myself in those teenage years. What turned up was a photo I will show the class with the comment, “As a kid I was convinced no one who looked the following guy, like how I thought I was, could ever be a leader, let alone someone who could make real contributions.” Nobody ever told me leaders could be like this unless they more or less walked on water. I think the message here is, when you see yourself as weak and introverted, it almost doesn’t matter what  you look like – you’ve put limits on yourself that no one else is seeing. Thankfully I had experiences that slowly, but surely helped me develop a different style of behavior, yet I continued to see myself as the shy kid I was once. Here’s that photo: GandhiI wish.!