The Introverted Leader | Book Review

"Introverts also have unique qualities that make them particularly
suited to leading people toward great results." 
(pp. 1-2)

Jennifer Kahnweiler, who introduced us to The Genius of Opposites, narrows her focus and shares developmental insights for the introvert, a worthy companion to Susan Cain's Quiet, or Dan Pink's A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future. 

Imagine a financial or accounting department, largely comprised of inward-focused (dominant green-blue Energize2Lead colors) professionals. It's practically a self-fulfilling prophecy that individuals in such a department would see themselves more as internally-focused subject matter experts than future corporate leaders.

Kahnweiler informs us of changes starting to take hold in organizations across the world, where diversity of style and temperamentis becoming increasingly important to consider in addition to race, ethnicity, and gender (p. xv). More and more, the complexity of organizations is calling for new leadership approaches. As a result, an expanding model of leadership beyond one based on extroversion (pp. 5-6) is called for:

• Solving pressing problems
• Increasing engagement
• Creating productive workspaces
• Enabling extroverts to tap into their introverted side
• Accomplishing more together

This review highlights key leadership chapters four, seven and eight; Leading People and Projects, Networking Your Way, and Communicating and Coaching for Results, respectively.

Challenges | Solution | Managing Energy

Kahnweiler sets the stage with six key themes emergent as significant barriers for introverted leaders (p. 8):

• People exhaustion.
• A fast pace.
• Getting interrupted.
• Pressure to self-promote.
• An emphasis on teams.
• Negative impressions.

Recall on the first day of an Academy Leadership Excellence Course, we begin with a fundamental three-dimensional personality profile - Energize2Lead, or E2L - workshop. The E2L profile helps us understand what activities genuinely energy us, and which increase stress, consume our energy, and are tiring. Each of the six barriers listed can be viewed as large energy consumers, particularly the first four. Especially given the frequency of collaborative projects today, a significant part of a leader's role is to connect with people, and without awareness and tools to manage their energy, introverts can become exhausted (p. 9).

As in her prior work, Kahnweiler (pp. 15-17) visualizes a process for us, the four Ps:

Prepare    This comes naturally to an introvert.
                   Put it to work.

Presence   Focusing on others - engagement

Push          Challenge to leave one's comfort zone


Since introverts (green-blue dominant E2L colors) are energized by learning details and planning, the preparatory first step is a great way to start, and building an energy reserve first may make the next steps less fatiguing.

Leading People and Projects | E2L | Instinctive Needs

An introvert's tendency to observe and process information before making judgements or decisions can be a powerful leadership advantage. Adam Grant mentions that introverts "tend to be less threatened by others" ideas. And they'll collect a lot of them before determining a vision (p. 29). Again, when we deeply understand others, or what makes them tick (think E2L instinctive needs dimension), we'll make a lasting connection and are well prepared for effective training, coaching and mentoring [which] will increase [the] chances of leading and managing others successfully (p. 31).

In our Feedback(Communication) workshops, Leadership by Walking Around is mentioned as a powerful means to "close the loop," or capture vital observations. For an introvert, it may be thought of as additional data collection. Kahnweiler advises that being present with people and projects is an essential part of being an introverted leader (P. 40). A few strategies:

• Walk around
• Write it down
• Listen like a leader

The third P, Push, will likely be needed in order for introverted leader delegation. Kahnweiler notes "It's tempting to keep a lot of tasks for myself because the energy required to delegate effectively feels high," (p. 51) and subsequently shares several Delegation Hot Buttons on page 52. The first one is significant and calls out for a developmentally based mindset:

I don't want to take the time to train someone else vs. This is an investment with great potential payoffs. Developmental mindset: The rewards of building confidence in my employees and freeing time for me to focus on what matters is worth the training time.

Networking Your Way | Connection

Making connections with people as a leader cannot be overstated. While this may be unnatural to an introvert, a closer look at "why" may help. Kahnweiler defines networking as building relationships for mutual beneficial exchange (p. 94). Well, the deeper we get to know someone, whether in our organization or outside, the higher likelihood a substantial mutual benefit may occur. Conversations about substantial topics, as opposed to small talk, is what leads to connection (p. 101). Kahnweiler calls this substancetalk. Terrific term.

Put another way, what happens when a highly observant introvert takes the time to ask a deep question, either in person or through a social media channel? Chances are, the other person will respond favorably, since a lot of networking and social media is superficial communication. In a way, the introvert has a natural advantage. Kahnweiler reminds us that connecting is about reciprocity, and what you have to offer other people in your interactions is important to know (p. 95).

Knowledge sharing also comes to mind (see The Knowing-Doing Gap), or a way of sharing distinctive and positive things about one's organization. Kahnweiler notices that "These leaders use social media to share information on company culture, shine a spotlight on employees, share personal aspects of themselves, and engage in efforts to be more transparent." (p. 97) Consider planning and executing a networking or social media strategy as part of essential leadership communication.

Communicating | Performance Coaching

Watch almost any extrovert in a practice coaching (workshop) session, and observe who is doing most of the talking. In almost all instances, the extrovert is talking more than 50% of the time, and often far more. That's not coaching. Introverted leaders find their natural propensity for preparation contributes greatly to communication success (p. 110). There's no more significant area for an introvert to align personality with performance than coaching.

On pages 115-117, Kahnweiler outlines and discusses the coaching session process GROW:

Goal           Define the issue or problem.
Reality       Describe the situation.
Options     Understand possible solutions.
Will            Commit to an action plan.

This aligns with both our Coaching Formsand follow-on Action Plans. Each of the GROW steps may be completed in advance, or in preparation for the coaching sessions, a practice which the introverted leader is ideally suited for.

A useful table on page 124 How to Communicate with Extroverts vs. How to Communicate with Introverts gives tips how each type wishes to be approached (think expectations E2L dimension). 


The main takeaway is that introverts are favorably positioned as natural 21st century leaders. Kahnweiler repeatedly brings up the natural habit of introverts to make a plan, write it down, and record how it is working (p. 157). She included an excellent journal format to do this on pages 158-160.

Note: Jennifer Kahnweiler generously provided a copy of her book for review.

JE | April 2018