Quiet leadership

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Quiet leaders:

Session purpose:

different levels of comfort in different rooms understand dynamics

What is introversion?

  • challenges: exterior v. interior feelings and how you act as a result
  • IT'S NOT shyness, social anxiety
  • IT IS where you get your energy -- introverts get it from contemplation, reflection, internal. Extroverts get it from socializing/talking about ideas
  • Balancing time to reflect, managing energy is important
  • Leading without being loud -- effective introverts, successful leaders are often quiet, lead without pushing ideas
  • The mainstream idea of a leader is extroverted, more visible because they promote themselves, although many leaders are introverts

Success factors for introverts

  • Knowing the lay of the land of a meeting, conference, etc.
  • Being named the official leader of a group v. needing to find a way to 'grab the mic'
  • Asking questions you find meaningful as an alternative to small talk (you can have a list of questions in your back pocket)
  • Building in silence, time fo reflection, time for people to share insights who haven't gotten a chance
  • Cultivating a group culture that allows for many personality types to contribute -- distribute the agenda in advance so people have time to reflect,check in with people who haven't been speaking to see if they can synthesize ("tell us what we're talking about"), speak 1 nth of the time in a group of n people, respectful curiosity and listening, contributing by asking open-ended questions rather than making comments (this can help open poeple's minds when teaching, as well)
  • Experiment with different combinations of groups, different paces of discussion -- process complex topics of discussion in small groups before opening up a big discussion (for example, drawing the topic in a small group before discussing the drawings, coming up with what you expect out of the meeting before starting)
  • Facicilator does not need to be an expert, can open up questions when they do not have expertise

Introvert strengths

  • Taking in many inputs and combining them
  • Taking time to reflect
  • Presence (can be more imortant than volume)
  • Deeper conversations and relationships in netwroking with few people
  • Weighty comments, questions after more thought and reflection
  • Power of silence (for example, in negotiation)
  • Sharing insight one on one to a valuable listener, rather than to a large group Genuine, curious, respectful
  • Gives the team a space to demonstrate genuinity, curiosity, respect

Ways to show those strengths

  • Present the awesome reflection you had, the important processing that happened
  • Many examples of successful organizations with introverted leaders (for examples, Bill Gates)


  • Susan Cain's book Quiet -- how do introverts work best, how to make teams where introverts shine?
  • Quiet Leadership Group in the Bay Area (mostly in silicon valley)