Do I put off a human vibe to you?

January 27, 2014

quiet“We live with a value system that I call the Extrovert Ideal — the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha and comfortable in the spotlight.  But we make a grave mistake to embrace the Extrovert Ideal so unthinkingly. Some of our greatest ideas, art and inventions — from the theory of evolution to van Gogh’s sunflowers to the personal computer — came from quiet and cerebral people who knew how to tune in to their inner worlds and the treasures to be found there.”

So says Susan Cain in Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, a 2012 book that has quietly worked its way to our nightstand.

Perhaps the person most responsible for the “extrovert ideal” is Harry Truman lookalike and menacing extrovert Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People.  Originally published in 1936, the book remarkably still sells in the six figures annually and still offers peppy advice about focusing on “the other fellow.”

Carnegie admired the theories of behavioral psychologist Henry C. Link, who called introverts “selfish persons” and offered as proof his memorable contention that “Jesus Christ . . . was an extrovert.”

The extrovert ideal does tend to capture the public imagination, and introverts can often be underestimated or even maligned.  We might be guilty of a little tongue-in-cheek stereotyping ourselves.

dilbert introverts

However – our own experience with “quiet and cerebral” entrepreneurs has demonstrated that it is not safe to assume one must be an extroverted leader in order to run a successful high-growth company.

In practice we need each other.  The best teams typically will have some of both who play to each other’s strengths.  But it doesn’t have to be the extrovert in the entrepreneur- CEO’s chair.

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