Would you believe that it was extroverts that were responsible for Enron? How about for the financial collapse of 2009? These are some of the more startling assertions made by Susan in Quiet. If they were just claims without backup, we might easily write them off. Cain does a great job applying research to make her point. That is one thing I loved about the book…it is well researched, written in a style that is easily readable, and the whole book supports the premise.
And the premise? We have been lost in the cult of extroversion for about the last 100 years, and it has not always served us well. Here’s an example: write down five leadership traits that you would hope for in a leader. Whenever I ask a class to do that, I usually hear a number of traits that belong to extroverts. Cain makes the case for a different style of leadership. She posits that introverts make better leaders, run better companies or business units, lead more productive teams. The way that she lays out the premise, and backs it up with research, provides a pretty convincing case.
She is also careful not to fall in the trap of labels. As one psychologist put it, there are no pure introverts and no pure extroverts. Labeling people as such do a disservice to others and denies the complexity of the human condition. Let’s take me, for instance. Anyone who knows me would describe me as an extrovert. In front of others, I can switch it on. Yet one of the things I love to do is to turn wood into beautiful objects. The other is that I read incessantly. Both are solitary pursuits where I might not talk to anyone for a full day. On the other hand, my daughter tends to be more introverted. She often will keep to herself when meeting new people and will keep to herself when in large group situations. Networking events make her cringe! She tells me she feels pressure to appear more introverted in these situations which can be very difficult and stressful. Yet in a small group she can be witty, funny and a great conversation.
Books that change the way you think about things are a treasure, and I value them immensely. This is one such book.