If you want scientific evidence to reassure you that introverts can make great leaders, there's plenty available. From their superior listening skills to deep expertise, quieter types in the C-suite have plenty of advantages, according to psychologists and leadership experts.
But sometimes anecdotes beat statistics for really bringing a truth home, and real-life examples can be more illuminating than published studies. If this is one of those times and you're more likely to be inspired by actual, highly successful introvert CEOs than abstract arguments from scientists, then a recent post by Quiet author Susan Cain on her Quiet Revolution blog is for you.
For the post, Cain hunted around for practical wisdom from exceptionally successful introverted CEOs, turning up lessons in books and interviews. Not only are they useful advice if you're a little more low-key socially than the average executive, but they also serve as a powerful reminder of the power of the introverted approach to leadership.
1. Be helpful three times a day
Could any advice be simpler or more powerful than this gem from former Campbell Soup boss Douglas Conant. Cain unearthed it from his new book TouchPoints: Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments:
"Simply take the next unplanned interaction as an opportunity to help. Maybe you can ask the right question to help someone get a little clearer, or maybe you can reinforce the importance of a project to help a team become a little more committed. Now think about what would happen if you were to be helpful to others three times a day for the next week. How would that feel? What if you were to do it again next week, and the week after that?"
2. See yourself through other's eyes
Being super thoughtful is a great advantage of introvert leaders, but the occasional downside is sometimes coming across as lost in thought to others. It's a problem former Mozilla CEO John Lilly recognized in himself.
"I'm an engineer by background and a bit of an introvert naturally. When I walk between meetings, I think about things. A lot of times I'll be looking down [at] my phone or looking down at the floor while I think things through. It's sort of a natural engineer behavior, but it's pretty off-putting if your CEO walks by you and doesn't look up and notice you. And so I forced myself to do things that aren't natural for me," he told Fast Company, explaining how he corrects for possible misperceptions.
3. Let 'em doodle
Being a dreamer isn't just good for the soul, it can also be good for your bottom life as 3M's president William McKnight discovered. In the 1930s and 40s, in a precursor to Google's much discussed "20 percent time," he left his staff plenty of time to daydream and pursue personal projects.
"Most of the inventions that the company relies on even today emerged from those periods of...experimental doodling," author Daniel Pink wrote of the success of McKnight's hands-off management style.