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Nancy Okerlund
Volume 2, Issue 18, 11/20/08

Quiet Leadership

A couple months ago I heard about a book called Quiet Leadership (by David Rock). My first thought was, "Hmmm, a book for introverts." Now I'm reading it, and a week or so ago (when it was time to write the next Introvert Energizer) I thought, "Hmmm, maybe this is what I'll write about."

But I didn't. Instead I got distracted, drained, and paralyzed. (As I write, I notice it sounds a little more dramatic than it feels but it hasn't been pleasant.) I boiled it down to that just this afternoon, shuffling through the dead leaves on a walk in the woods, tired and frustrated and making myself walk.

The good news is that once I boiled it down, I quit feeling frustrated and stopped being paralyzed. I'm still somewhat distracted and drained but managing fine and finally writing this :-).

I'm drained because I've had a lot of extroverting in the past couple weeks and not enough down time. I'm distracted because I'm about to start studying some new material that has my intellectual self wanting to disappear for a couple months, with no interruptions - I dipped into it and it's taking up a lot of space in my head.

And I was paralyzed because once I started chewing on "quiet leadership", I decided I'd have nothing to say about it without a PhD (in something or other.)

Of course, versions of distracted, drained and paralyzed are normal for introverts. Our brains and nervous systems are designed to really like thinking and wondering and concentrating on things we're interested in. We get what the brain researchers call "hap hits" (hits of happiness) for doing it. No wonder I let myself get prematurely distracted by some deep thoughts it feels great!

And we live in a very extroverted society, which seems to be stuck in overdrive. Our introvert bodies get de-energized by the external world, no matter how much we love it. It's no small thing to find the right balance of being in it and retreating, to get our neurotransmitters restocked. Drained batteries is an introvert fact of life.

About the paralysis. As I understand Jung (who coined the terms "introvert" and "extravert" early in the 20th century) and people who interpret his work, if extroverts orient themselves by connecting to the outer world of people, places, things, introverts orient ourselves by connecting to the inner world of archetypes.

Not just our own inner world, but the inner world of what Jung called the "collective unconscious", the "reservoir of our experiences as a species", as one psychology scholar describes it.

This is deep thought territory, of course, and I won't say much more. But when I stop to imagine the possibility that, indeed, our energies are directed by this vast field called the collective unconscious, and that we're swimming around in our thoughts and ideas, sizing them up in relation to what's going on out there in the "real" world, I have even more respect for that introvert tendency to be thoughtful.

And even more compassion for us as we go at our slower pace, pausing before we take action because we're doing the work of deciding whether the action makes sense against that huge backdrop of the collective unconscious.

But back to Quiet Leadership. I decided to skip the PhD and say a few things anyway. For one, it's true, it is a book for introverts, but not in the way I first assumed. (I thought it would be about a "style" that's quiet.) The subtitle is "Help People Think Better Don't Tell Them What to Do!".

It's an approach to leadership that's about helping people improve the way they think, based on the latest brain research. Interesting for introverts and extroverts alike.

As I'm reading about this model, my hunch is that it is well-suited to introverts. We like to think so, by nature, we're probably attracted to the idea of getting better at it. And we tend to be good listeners a model of encouraging better thinking probably works well for good listeners.

But beyond David Rock's work, I'm liking the term "quiet leadership." It has a calming effect on me. And makes me want to think deep thoughts :-).

And I recommend shuffling through dead leaves even when you're really tired.

End of food for thought on to a practical idea:

A Practical Idea for Introverts and Extroverts

Lie down for 3 minutes (or as long as you want!) Get quiet, go inside, and imagine yourself tuning into the collective unconscious. (As the theory goes, we all have it in us introverts just relate to it more intensely.)

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