The Myth of Great Leadership

This is also highlihted in Susan Cain’s book, Quiet, where she says that modern boardrooms should leverage the strengths of introverts, including complex problem solving, deep thinking and strategizing. Interestingly, in the first few pages the author narrates an incident where the introvert had to do the hard-sell talk and negotiate. It is not that introverts cannot talk; it is not that they are shy; they are observant, they are unassuming, and they are great listeners.

I have worked in a couple of different industries, company sizes, and, of course, different roles in my career, spanning 2 decades and counting. My observation is that in maximum cases, the ones who can really talk and hog the space in a meeting or a forum and be charming enough to indulge peers and seniors alike, are the ones who reach the top management levels faster. Smooth talkers, smooth operators are definitely liked by all and are the light and life of any organization. People adore them. Fair enough!

The disparity arises when they are only talking and take less action, and have even lesser in-depth knowledge, primarily because they think they know it all. As avid speakers, who love the sound of their voice, they are also poor listeners. Winning through speech becomes their hallmark, even a considerable part of their professional ego, and rise thereof.

In contrast, the silent slogger does most of the work, spends time researching, learning, listening, ruminating, bringing out thoughts and ideas, but if not articulate, then the dias remains a distant object. Often, such people receive appraisals that show them as mild, invisible, non-communicative. Interestingly, they are also trusted with the workload and called upon to deliver.

This is also highlighted in Susan Cain’s book, Quiet, where she says that modern boardrooms should leverage the strengths of introverts, including complex problem solving, deep thinking and strategizing. Interestingly, in the first few pages, the author narrates an incident where the introvert had to do the hard-sell talk and negotiate. Not that introverts cannot talk; not that they are shy; rather they are observant and unassuming, and are listeners. The top positions may, however, remain elusive until introverts develop and exhibit art of the glib.

This, I believe, constitutes the biggest malady of any organization, bureaucracy, even nations. Until the doers are at the helm of affairs and credited for the work they produce, everything else is smoke, mirrors, mist, and a lot of public relations events. Even at the pinnacle of power and commanding all authority, if one does not govern with compassion, decide with the support of knowledge and advice, administer with competency, and lead by example, the leadership skill is a full-blown myth.

For those interested in understanding and also explaining introversion, especially to children, BBC One in its BBC Idea series, explains the Quiet Power of Introverts in a short animated video.

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