Book Review: The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength by Jennifer B. Kahnweiler
People classification have been used by human resource organizations to manage and identify potential candidates for recruitment. It is also a means for other professionals such as psychologists, therapists and even career coaches to help their clients understand themselves better and improve in their challenges. The extrovert and introvert classification, popularized by Carl Jung, is one very common labeling that can even be considered as “layman” nowadays due to its popularity of usage.
The extroverts typically enjoy human interactions and to be enthusiastic and full of energy. They enjoy being in large social gatherings. On the other hand, the introverts are people who are reserved and less outspoken in large groups . I easily identify with the introvert type.
There were other behaviour classifications. The corporate world would use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) (Wikipedia) which explores on the judging and perceiving functions of people to understand how each will effectively perform a role in a team. This is often times used in team building activities to help people recognize their behaviour and the other team members’ behaviour. In understanding each one, the team uses it to their advantage. Though I could not remember how my results looked like, it is now like this:
ISTJ – “Trustee”. Decisiveness in practical affairs. Guardian of time- honored institutions. Dependable. 11.6% of total population.
More than a year ago, I picked up an interesting book related to leadership and introvert personality: The Introverted Leader by Jennifer Kahnweiler. I found the book very useful because it did not just talk about the abstract principles but practical action points. The book was not about a strict “leadership” role in a corporate or political`setting. Rather, it was something that can be applied in any environment. I have always seen “leadership” based on how one stands up for his specific role and takes the lead in his specialty regardless of his position or status. Nonetheless, it was more directed to the office corporate set-up.
Kahnweiler herself is admirable for her advocacy that introversion is not the weaker personality. Rather, it is different and the often misunderstood one. Introverts are associated as shy, anti-social, weakling and “slow”. For one, these labels are all different from introversion itself. For example, an introvert is not necessarily a “shy” person. Susan Cain, another author on the subject makes the distinction (Source: Scientific American):
Shyness is the fear of negative judgment, while introversion is simply the preference for less stimulation. Shyness is inherently uncomfortable; introversion is not.
Cain also mentioned that the traits overlap but to what degree, is something experts debate about. I emphasized this as shyness is commonly associated with introversion. You may be an introvert but not a shy person. You may be a shy person but an extrovert as well! It is important you recognize your introversion or the introversion of a family member, colleague or friend.
Let me impart some of my learnings in this book:
1. Kahnweiler stressed key challenges that lead to the introverts ending up in the losing side. These are stress, perception gaps, career derailers and invisibility. As mentioned earlier, the characteristics of introverts itself is more often misunderstood as the “weaker” personality.
2. The author introduced 4Ps to manage this behavior: Prepare, Presence, Push and Practice. This process is indeed practical that in meeting any of the challenges, a preparation is necessary especially for the typical introvert who is not spontaneous. Presence, although a common ground between the two personalities, is also important because it comes as a reminder to always keep one’s focus and attention on the present, the NOW that is happening. Push is allowing oneself to throw the hat out of the fence so he will be forced to get it outside thereby putting himself beyond his comfort zone. And as there is “preparation”, doing it over and over in different occasions or scenarios helps someone to develop a particular skill at a comfortable level. The 4Ps was used as the anchor of each key area that was discussed throughout the book which made the entire masterpiece easy to execute. By keeping these 4Ps in mind, one can surely find a way to be on top of the situation.
3. In the chapter Managing and Leading, I find it valuable that in order to practice “presence”, one has to learn to listen with attunement and observe facial expressions. This part of the book not only explores how an introvert should behave but how a leader should manage an introvert. If you have done one of those “one-on-one” sessions with someone to sort out a very serious problem where we wanted to really uproot everything, this is how one should practice good listening skills. It is listening with your heart not only for what was being said but also how it is being said that one is able to go deep into the person’s soul.
4. Project management tips was also covered. As part of the “preparation” phase, one has to build credibility to make a project successful. If we are used to all the high-tech ways of communicating that appear to be “efficient”, take heed and check: Do you think sending out an email is enough to make people understand your message? Some sensitive issues cannot just be communicated by email for example. Just because many of us introverts are comfortable with email, it does not guarantee effectiveness all the time. Another aspect is effective communication of both good and bad news. We tend to only keep in touch with our “client” when there is a problem. We miss giving them the small good news here and there (“low hanging fruit”) that should keep the relationship pleasant. Any bad news, even if not our fault, tend to fall on us if we do not build a good image of ourselves.
5. “The Meeting Game” as one chapter was entitled gives me a challenging view of our usual meeting as it becomes like a war game. For the introvert, with enough preparation, this game becomes exciting. Readiness on the agenda and involvement caught my attention. Introverts tend to speak only when it is necessary or sometimes when compelled to do so. Kahnweiler says that speaking up at the beginning fires up one’s energies to participate in a meeting. Hence, it is a good tool to start with.
The book is a must for people who think they are “introverts” and have the “leadership” attitude in what they do. It gives you a motivation to explore your introvert side and capitalize on it.
My challenge to the readers is this: Have you identified whether you are an introvert or extrovert? If you are an introvert, what have you done so far to make you a more effective person? If you are an extrovert, how do you relate to introverts?
Check out the book and browse: The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength