Volume 2, Issue 18, 11/20/08
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
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
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
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
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.)