What are your first thoughts when you read the words ‘quiet leadership’?
Altitude Advisory’s Kristen Buik has done her research on the theory and you’ll be surprised with what she has found.
Illustration: Jim Cooke
“I’ve been doing a fair bit of reading about the ‘Quiet Leadership’ theory. I know what you’re thinking, a quiet leader, seems like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? It’s almost a given that a stereotypical leader will more often than not be loud, charismatic, narcissistic and brutish. I don’t know why but the topic of leadership is of endless fascination to me, perhaps it’s because I am still trying to figure out which type I am.
In her 2012 book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain brought much-needed attention to how extroverted leaders have gotten a bit too much good press lately, to the point that excellent introverted leaders are increasingly overlooked. If you haven’t read it, put it on your reading list.
Cain describes a quiet leader as one that is essentially an introvert – working away in the background — quietly, carefully and patiently. It’s not that they don’t have an ego, they do, but they don’t need to be the ‘hero’.
An extroverted leader on the other hand tends to be charismatic, dominant and ego driven. They need to be heard and they can be so enthusiastic about their own ideas that they inadvertently shut others down.
Right now I am sure that you can all conjure an example of both, I can help you out as my other obsession right now is Trump, and I know that you know which side of quiet leadership spectrum he falls on… don’t get me started.
It’s important to note, when Jung identified the personality types of introversion or extroversion in the 1920’s, he wasn’t identifying how shy or social you are; rather it’s about how you derive your energy. An introvert’s source of energy comes from within, from their inner world of thoughts, ideas, and reflections. Introverts direct energy and attention inward and receive energy from reflecting on thoughts, memories, and feelings.
Extroverts, on the other hand, get their essential stimulation from the outer world, the world of people and things. They direct their energy and attention outward and receive energy from interacting with people and from taking action.
Time magazine published a list of the greatest introverts and extroverts of our time. Bill Gates, Hillary Clinton & Warren Buffet made the short list of introverts and Margaret Thatcher, Bill Clinton and Steve Jobs among those listed as extroverts. You would agree that both the introverts and extroverts in these groups achieved and enjoyed large scale success?
So, which kind of leader is the best kind for your organisation? That’s a topic for another day!”