Introverts Lead Too!

{52 Books - Book 19}

Even at the age of nine years old, David Weiss noticed he was different than his friends. Some observers might have even called him shy. Wiess, now an accomplished drummer and music journalist, tells his story in an interview with writer Susan Cain:         

At one point, David says, I totally overcame all my childhood stuff. And I know exactly how: I started playing the drums. Drums are my muse. They’re my Yoda. When I was in middle school, the high school jazz band came and performed for us, and I thought the coolest one by a long shot was the one with the drum set. To me, drummers were kind of like athletes, but musical athletes, and I loved music.

Ms. Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking highlights the validity of an introvert’s approach to making things happen. Cain demonstrates her prowess as a comprehensive researcher, pulling facts from scholarly research like Anders Ericsson’s work on deliberate practice. She combines this approach with interesting anecdotal perspectives like David’s. Many people shared reflections on how they navigated and even succeeded while growing up in culture with a bias for extroverted approaches to leadership. Here she explains further:        

David still remembers acutely what it was like to be his nine-year old self. “I feel like I am in touch with that person today,” he says. “Whenever I am doing something that I think is cool, like if I’m in New York City, in a room full of people, interviewing Alicia Keys or something, I send a message back to that person and let him know that everything turned out OK. I feel like when I was nine, I was receiving that signal from the future, which was one of the things that gave me the strength to hang in there. I was able to create this loop between who I am now and who I was then."

This particular story stood out for me because David used imagination to overcome his feelings of being different than his peers. Weiss was naturally employing a strategy I playfully wrote about in 5 Ways to Be a Superhero. Cain’s book is filled with strategies quieter individuals use to lead. From Rosa Parks to Steve Wozniak, we read of the power of individual acts combined with natural alliances. Martin Luther King with inspiration from Parks, and Steve Jobs who was impressed by the brilliance of Wozniak’s work, employed bold extroverted approaches to leading the masses. 

I learned that introversion and extroversion are not about being shy or outgoing. They are traits that we tend to see as good or bad depending on our perspective. She writes about research from Anders Ericsson on deliberate practice and the importance of working alone in order to gain mastery. Working alone is currently not valued in the workplace or the schools. The author ultimately calls for a more realistic and helpful viewpoint of the upsides and downsides for each trait and the power of using the right trait at the right time either by adapting or working with someone who has strength in a particular area. Whichever approach comes more natural to you, reading this book can help you apply strategies that lead to an outcome you intend. 

Every week during 2014 I look forward to sharing books that I am reading.  The lens of the leadership process will be the filter for which I recommend books.  Books are powerful vehicles for providing us with inspiration and new ideas.