A leader in any context, whether political, organizational or a school prefect, leads, guides and supports us to perform and be successful. As a follower we have an image of the leader as someone who is vocal, assertive, great Networker and bold.
A leader such as Mr. Narayan Murthy of Infosys had the courage to start a company, leads others to success, forms great business alliances and does all this, in an unassuming and sensitive manner. He never talks too loudly or gets physically involved (thinks gestures and walking around too much) when making his point. His leadership style is inspirational, intellectual and positive.
According to Susan Cain, who is the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, the author gives a description of the extrovert ideal – “the cultural phenomenon where in our schools, workplaces and religious institutions, we revere people who are bold, entertaining, alpha and gregarious, and appreciate far less a different constellation of traits – the serious, reflective, cerebral characteristics associated with introversion.” Last week, we discussed Ang Lee as an emotionally intelligent and an introverted personality.
I can think of Mahatma Gandhi in the past and Bill Gates in the present who are assertive and quietly make a difference. Why then are we obsessed with creating leaders who are loud and colorful?! We send our leaders to executive development programs, coaching, and personality tests to change them and choose people who are sociable, expressive and outgoing to lead people.
And it is not just in leadership roles. Recruitment for team members and other roles across organizations also tend to favor more forceful personalities. The general perception is that some jobs like sales need an outgoing personality, however, this is not necessarily true. I don’t deny the need for such personalities in certain jobs, but do all jobs require it? And why is someone who is quiet perceived as unfriendly or not a go-getter? How did someone as timid as Rosa Parks and her boldness contributes to the Civil Rights Movement?
We need a mindset change towards introverts and an awareness of the strength in people who are quiet and like to keep to themselves. We need all kinds in the corporate world.