In the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain begins by describing the culture change in America from what was once a culture of character – valuing private character and inner virtue that produced a disciplined and honorable public conduct – to a culture of personality – valuing performance, outer charm, and public perception. The result has been that charismatic leadership (or, an extroverted style) has become viewed as more necessary for success. Cain draws attention to the fact that this assumption is a myth, and spends the remainder of the book differentiating between introversion and extroversion, explaining how they are each reflected in leadership.
Over the course of the book, Cain identifies some of the different attributes and characteristics of introversion and extroversion, and then makes connections between those characteristics and work tendencies. For example, because introverts prefer to work independently, they are more likely to creatively innovate if they are given periods of solitude, as opposed to being pressured to innovate in a brainstorming team session. Elsewhere she explains that extroverts are more likely to be motivated by rewards, and therefore will be more action-driven, while introverts are more likely to be motivated by intrinsic satisfaction, and therefore will be more reflective; therefore teams and individuals that include both extroverted and introverted tendencies need to find a balance between action and reflection. These serve as a couple of examples of the several ways that Cain illustrates how each temperament functions in the context of organizations and leadership, and how those differences can be utilized to the greatest benefit.
Because I have an introverted personality type, I enjoyed the insights and information that put into words much of what describes my leadership tendencies, and found it to be very affirming. In particular, the last couple of chapters (one on communication and the other on learning to navigate an extroverted culture) were most helpful for me on a practical level. However, there seemed to be heavy emphasis and discussion on a scientifically evolutionary and deterministic view on human nature, and so, while I appreciated her insights into the nature of human behavior and personality, as a Christian who believes the Bible to be true, I differ in my belief of the origin of our natures and instead see the beauty in how God created individuality.
That being said, Cain’s book provides valuable information on the outworking of these personalities and how they can be best utilized, therefore I think it is a valuable book for helping leaders to work well with both extroverts and introverts.
Cain, S. (2012). Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Broadway Books: New York, NY.