Yet another book that I had wanting to read for a long time. This book entered my radar after I watched Susan Cain‘s TED talk on the power of introverts. The talk was viewed nearly four million times in its first year alone.
As an introvert, I found the book really interesting. In particular the first part of the book was a real eye opener and resonated strongly with me. I had not realised how biased everyday life is towards the ‘extrovert ideal’ and how I should respond. Therefore, this book is a must read for all introverts.
The Extrovert Ideal
As adults, many of us work for organizations that insist we work in teams, in offices without walls, for supervisors who value “people skills” above all. To advance our careers, we’re expected to promote ourselves unabashedly.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t always like this. In the early 1900s, there was a shift from the culture of character to a culture of personality. This coincided with a migration to urban centres where you had to interact with people that you didn’t know and extroverts gained an advantage in this new reality.
The Myth of the Charismatic Leader
“Among the most effective leaders I have encountered and worked with in half a century,” the management guru Peter Drucker has written, “some locked themselves into their office and others were ultra-gregarious. Some were quick and impulsive, while others studied the situation and took forever to come to a decision.… The one and only personality trait the effective ones I have encountered did have in common was something they did not have: they had little or no ‘charisma’ and little use either for the term or what it signifies.”
Nature vs Nuture
There is a strong biological aspect but it can be altered by upbringing (like a rubber band, you cannot stretch too far from your default state). The intricate interaction between the two that makes us who we are.
Impact of Culture
Migrant cultures are considered more extroverted as they had to move around while others were introverted. Hence, Asian cultures are not as extroverted as American ones. Yet, they too are following the American example of the ideal worker.
Introverts in the Workplace
Research suggests that extroverted leaders enhance group performance when employees are passive, but that introverted leaders are more effective with proactive employees. This makes sense as introverts tend to listen more and are therefore more likely to be open to new ideas. The most effective teams are composed of a healthy mix of introverts and extroverts, studies show, and so are many leadership structures.