Quiet Power: Learning to Lead as an Introvert

Sue Acton, Career Assistant, GECD

Dr. Heidi Kasevich of the organization Quiet Revolution gave an engaging presentation to MIT students on February 27 about the strengths that introverts can bring to organizations. Kasevich is a self-described “extreme introvert,” and yet her presentation style could almost be described as effervescent. She is a colleague of Susan Cain, the New York Times best-selling author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.

Kasevich first spoke about the misconceptions regarding introverts and how society is slowly changing the way we view quiet individuals. A key point of her talk addressed the importance of having introverts recognize their own strengths and dispel the negative adjectives that often accompany the word “introvert.” She also discussed the importance of educating extroverts, so that they understand why introverts behave the way they do.

Kasevich gave pointers to introverts to help them change the perception about them so they are not misunderstood. One example she gave was regarding body language. Introverts do not always outwardly display their enthusiasm; this may be due, in part, to the inward-focus of introverts, who tend to spend their time analyzing rather than focusing on their outward societal interactions. Kasevich strongly suggested that introverts make an effort to show enthusiasm, so others don’t misread facial cues as indicating disinterest.

Kasevich also discussed data from the Wharton School of Business that supported the notion that introverted leaders may be more successful achieving goals than extroverted leaders, if they have proactive employees. She described an experiment performed by Dr. Adam Grant of the Wharton School of Business and co-authors Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School and David Hofmann of the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. Volunteers in groups were told to fold t-shirts as quickly as possible, and in each group a t-shirt folding expert was covertly included. The idea was to determine which type of leader listened to the expert employee and utilized the expertise provided. Introverted leaders were more successful than extroverted leaders in this scenario.

Kasevich also cited examples of introverted leaders of large companies, providing powerful evidence for our introverted students that they, too, can become leaders if they understand their strengths and are true to themselves.