Introverts and Leadership

Photo by Craig Damlo

Photo by Craig Damlo

I read Susan Cain's Quiet over the summer, and while it was an interesting book, I found myself disagreeing with some of the points it made.  I consider myself to be an introvert, but I have no issues sitting in an open team workspace, for example.  My main disagreements stem from the way Cain used the term "introvert."  As Judith Warner noted in her New York Times review

For one thing, [Cain's] definition of introversion — a temperamental inner-­directedness first identified as a core personality trait by Carl Jung in 1921 — widens constantly; by the end of the book, it has expanded to include all who are “reflective, cerebral, bookish, unassuming, sensitive, thoughtful, serious, contemplative, subtle, introspective, inner-directed, gentle, calm, modest, solitude-seeking, shy, risk-averse, thin-skinned.”

The truth is, researchers are finding that introverts make better leaders than extroverts because they're more likely to listen and pay attention to what other people are saying.  After I was elected Regent of my fraternity chapter in college, I had emailed a brother from another chapter for advice; he told me, "We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak."  Those words have proven helpful.

As an introvert, I often find myself comfortable staying out of the limelight, but I do consider myself to be a leader.  I identify quite a bit with these words from Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, "I am driven by great work and seeing people do incredible things and having a part in that. So it’s more of a feeling inside that drives me, not a public recognition that drives me."  

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.