Quiet | Book Review

Susan Cain takes readers on a deep, well-researched exposé challenging traditional notions of extroverted leadership, or a value system (p. 4) based on the Extrovert Ideal. Cain’s work may be considered an intellectual bookend to Dan Pink’s A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. Both works persuasively share demographic trends, that is, the emergence of deeper, knowledge-based habits, vital for future leader and organizational success. Energize2Lead (E2L) profiles, both individual, and in combinations used as team building tools, are natural companions unifying the goal of increased understanding at the core of both works. This review summarizes key E2L reflections stimulated by Cain’s work.

E2L Reflections

Part One explores the Extrovert Ideal. In Chapter 2 we join Cain as participants in a Tony Robbins - paragon of the Culture of Personality – extravaganza:

“But it seems, according to Tony, that you’d better act like one [extrovert] if you don’t want to flub the sales call and watch your family die like pigs in hell.”

Cain contrasts (p. 42) Robbins with Abraham Lincoln as the embodiment of virtue during the Culture of Character. She also finds similarity with Jim Collin’s (p. 54) Level Five Leaders (see Good to Great), known for humility and intense professional purpose. Chapter three abounds with nuggets such as Stephen Wozniak’s (p. 72) development of the first personal computer, an archetype of the solitary engineer engaged in Deliberate Practice (p. 81). The Apple Computer story suggests we need symbiotic introvert-extrovert relationships (pp. 92-93), such as Wozniak and Jobs.

A deeper dive is found in Part Two, Chapter 4, Is Temperament Destiny? Cain’s exploration of individual hard wiring is directly related to our E2L Instinctive Needs. Jerome Kagan’s Galen’s Prophecy changed the author’s mind (p. 106), who now acknowledges temperament is more powerful than she thought. Recall, our E2L profiles represent our core needs; for security, for trust, and what we actually listen for in conversations and relationships. The remainder of Part Two explores how we can adapt, or coexist in an often-extroverted world, despite an introverted temperament. In our Conflict Management workshops, we learned that individuals who regularly have their instinctive needs met operate at higher (more effective) energy levels. Cain seems to reach the same conclusion (pp. 124-126):

“Once you understand introversion and extroversion as preferences for certain levels of stimulation, you can begin consciously trying to situate yourself in environments favorable to your own personality,”

Termed “optimal levels of arousal,” or one’s sweet spot.

Part Three details the effects of Asian-American introversion and achievement, reminding us of Amy Chua’s manifesto Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, highlighting Chinese cultural focus on inner confidence, and subsequent academic success. However, this striking difference between introversion (Eastern) and extroversion (Western) temperaments leaves many Asian-American introverts left out or uncomfortable (p 194) in the United States.

Cain’s solution, or approach in Part Four leads us to another E2L analogy, questioning (p. 206) whether we have fixed personalities or “person-situation” traits. Examination of highly contrasting instinctive and preferred (or expectations) profiles is a suggested approach to answering the author’s question. In fact, Cain offers career suggestions based on three questions (p. 219) very similar to survey answers which form our preferred E2L profile, and likewise reminds us (P. 228) how hard it is for extroverts to understand introverts need to recharge at the end of a day.

In summary, Cain applies her findings personally in Part Four, letting us know that leadership is really a holistic exercise not just left to co-worker relationships. This is great reinforcement for Personal Leadership Philosophy development and refinement, based on continuously improved understanding of ourselves and each other, at work and at home.

JE | May 2015