We’re reading Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, for the Friends Journal Book Club this month. Last week, we discussed what it’s like to currently live in the Culture of Personality rather than the early twentieth century Culture of Character. This week, we’ll discuss what makes a good leader. (Note: You don’t have to read the book to participate!)
In Chapter Two, Cain talks about her experience going to a seminar conducted by self-help guru Tony Robbins, extrovert extraordinaire. As a paying participant, Cain has to engage in exercises which, she explains, “[suggest] that salesmanship governs even the most neutral interactions…[implying] that every encounter is a high-stakes game in which we win or lose the other person’s favor” (38).
But what makes a successful person? In particular, what makes a successful leader?
At Harvard Business School, one of the most élite instituions in the nation, future business leaders are taught to “act confidently and make decisions in the face of incomplete information.” Cain watches groups at HBS engage in serious questions to see how they come to decisions and consensus. There, as well as at UC Berkeley, the most vocal students tend to be the ones followed by the group. But maybe, Cain suggests, we shouldn’t be so quick to listen to what the most talkative people have to say. After all, the leaders of many successful organizations (like Bill Gates, for example), are actually introverts. Contrary to what we may have assumed, a charismatic leader is not the most vital thing for an organization. Perhaps leaders need to be more “quiet,” “humble,” “unassuming.” In fact, the highest-performing companies have just those kinds of leaders.
Questions to consider:
What do you think makes a successful leader?
What has been your experience with effective and ineffective leaders? What are some of the traits you thought helped your group or organization? What are traits that hurt?
Later in the chapter, Cain talks about the pressure put on Evangelical Christians to verbally share their faith with prospective members. Do you think an organization can reach out to new members effectively without being vocal? What are some other ways to invite people to be a part of a community?
Don’t forget to subscribe to comments below and add your thoughts, questions or comments to our discussion!
Not sure if you’re an introvert or extrovert? Take the Quiet Quiz on Susan Cain’s website.
*This is a Friends Journal Book Club installment.