Introverts Make Great Leaders, Too – NYTimes.com

An apt conclusion that goes for college classes as well: The most vocal students don’t always make the best ones (but don’t take that as a reason to not comment in class, its just encouragement for those of us who are perhaps a little kinder and gentler.)

Considering the fact that Mitt Romney has also been criticized for being too reserved, we might as well get used to the fact that, no matter the outcome of the election, we won’t have an extrovert in the White House for at least another four years. And that gives us an opportunity to address our popular misconceptions about what leadership really involves.

Culturally, we tend to associate leadership with extroversion and attach less importance to judgment, vision and mettle. We prize leaders who are eager talkers over those who have something to say. In 2004, we praised George W. Bush because we wanted to drink a beer with him. Now we criticize President Obama because he won’t drink one with us.

The nation’s premier leadership training grounds, like Harvard Business School and West Point, are particularly good places to explore attitudes about leadership. At Harvard Business School, an institution that one graduate described to me as “the spiritual capital of extroversion,” grades are based half on class participation, and first years do most of their studying in mandatory groups called learning teams. Students are expected to be relentlessly social outside of class, too. “I go out at night like it’s my job,” one student told me.

via Introverts Make Great Leaders, Too – NYTimes.com.

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8 thoughts on “Introverts Make Great Leaders, Too – NYTimes.com

  1. brownsarahk says:

    While this article is interesting and frankly, as a introvert myself, caters to my interest, I can’t help but be a little skeptical. The author claims that introverts make good leaders, however, the evidence is riddled with fallacies. For example, because General Krulak has an introverted personality he must then, also have the ability to make wise and cool decisions. Who says that an extrovert would not be able to make well-sounded decisions? Or, I’m sure there are plenty of introverts whose decision making skills fail to dazzle even a classroom of Freshmen.
    Most importantly, I think that as leader of the free world, the President’s leadership ability is largely dependent on the nation’s concept of leadership. As the author writes: “…We won’t have an extrovert in the White House for at least another four years. And that gives us an opportunity to address our popular misconceptions about what leadership really involves.” In my opinion, if the national reference for leadership is FDR and Clinton, the next four years may be full of disappointment and longing for a more charismatic leader.
    But I’m not completely a pessimist. With any luck, the nation’s mindset can change and introverts like Obama, Romney, and hey, myself, can be recognized for our spectacular leadership skills.
    For some psychological information on the complexity of introverts in positions of power, read this article: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201111/why-introverts-make-great-leaders-sometimes

  2. Leah Copeland says:

    While this is a relevant topic during this election and time, it is also important to assess our own personality types and the manner in which we work with others. Like the above article states, leaders come from both sides of the extroverted/introverted spectrum. We falsely assume that extroversion is a positive trait in a leader but leaders are often discovered through their extroversion.

    When studied, it has been found that leaders who eventually earn top roles are indeed introverts. (“A 2009 study conducted by researchers from the University of Minnesota and Baruch College found that 60 percent of top level executives displayed high levels of extroversion.”) It can be argued that introverts tend to listen better and are more open than there ready-to-debate and ready-to-take-charge friends.

    In my opinion, I feel the art of leadership requires a balance which few achieve. A willingness to listen, patience, and the ability to think and formulate before speaking are traits politicians, celebrities, and business leaders fail to master. Too often we trade the charismatic and opinionated frontrunner for the quieter and calculated leader.

    http://edition.cnn.com/2010/BUSINESS/11/29/introverts.leadership/index.html

  3. jackie3clark says:

    I recently read a very interesting book called the Geography of Bliss. This book focuses on what makes people happy, and focuses on which countries are considered happy. One of these countries was Iceland. Iceland is considered one of the most creative and innovative countries in the world producing poets, writers, singers, song writers. (Some pop culture stars like Siguros and Bjork are from Iceland.) Many would say that the culture of Iceland is very introverted. For the Icelandic people this introversion makes them happy. But that does not mean it is right or wrong.

    Susan Cain (http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts.html) is interesting because when she speaks it seems as if she is trivializing the life of extroverts, but mainly she is fighting for the recognition that not all people are extroverts, and we cannot require that everyone fit into the extrovert mold.

    Who knows it the best leaders are introverts or extroverts. I argue that it depends. It depends on the time and place. As globalization continues to spread with the advancements of technology, words are no longer said between colleagues, but rather relayed and re-posted through Facebook, Twitter, Istagram, and every online news source. I think that America needs a leader who is well aware of this, can take the time to think before speaking and will quit putting on a show of such “extrovertedness”. I guess that makes me okay with the next four years.

  4. I don’t think the point of the article is that introverts make better leaders. Rather, it is simply proving false the notion that one must be an extrovert (defined by Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary as a “gregarious and unreserved person”) in order to be a good leader. As the article states, “Many of this nation’s finest leaders have been extroverts — but plenty have not.” The point is that many qualities rank higher in importance than extroversion/introversion in forming a good leader. Forbes has a couple of good articles on this topic:

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikaandersen/2012/06/11/passionate-leaders-arent-loud-theyre-deep/

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/haydnshaughnessy/2012/02/29/the-six-surprising-habits-of-highly-effective-leaders/2/

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikemyatt/2012/04/04/10-communication-secrets-of-great-leaders/

    This last one poses five questions to ask yourself regarding your character, an essential part of a good leader:

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnbaldoni/2012/09/17/character-5-questions-to-ask-yourself/

    One of the reasons I am really looking forward to this class is the opportunity to become a better leader and collaborator. Hopefully we can all gain valuable experience that may even change our minds about what leadership qualities we should most aspire to.

  5. Interesting that this article came out after the Romney campaign made its huge blunder last week when it decided to go “extrovert.” Chew on that one.

    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/johncassidy/2012/09/mitt-romneys-libya-blunder-reflects-larger-failings.html

  6. In a quick search on Google for “famous introverts”, the first link was to a photo article of Forbes’s list of World’s Most Famous Introverts (http://www.forbes.com/pictures/lmj45ifjd/albert-einstein/). Out of the thirteen listed, a good majority were involved in scientific breakthroughs such as Einstein and Darwin, but some of the people I consider to be great leaders had their pictures on a slide, particularly Mahatma Gandhi and Eleanor Roosevelt.
    One part of the above article that particularly struck me, being an introvert myself, was that introverts “like people just as much as extroverts do, and often care deeply about them. They just don’t want to be surrounded by crowds 24/7”. We are often told that leadership involves caring about those they are in charge of, and yet, we associate the charismatic extroverts with the ideal leader. Like as was mentioned above, there are certain times, places, and situations in which leadership calls for an extrovert, introvert, or someone in between. Sometimes we need a leader who is more soft-spoken because that implies they are willing to listen and collaborate with their constituents. But other times we crave the great orators, someone who will make wise decisions for us, and then convince us why it was for the best. Part of being a delegate, I have found, is being able to shift between those two modes. Sometimes you need to be able to let yourself be heard in a chaotic unmoderated caucus, but tact is needed, as well as cooperation and a more quiet leadership is needed to draw the unsure in.

  7. Leah Copeland says:

    Although this was a hot topic of last week, I found this TED Talk today- a fascinating look into the true value of introverts.

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