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Why Female Introverts Can Be Powerful Leaders

Career

I've always been an introvert, and a female, two categories which aren't exactly promoted in the business world. For the past 8 years, I've also been in leadership roles. I am, therefore, writing this to argue in favor of the introverts and females out there, and also, to help anyone become a better leader. It's as simple as this: communication.


“Originality thrives in seclusion free of outside influences beating upon us to cripple the creative mind. Be alone – that is the secret of invention: be alone, that is when ideas are born." – Nikola Tesla

This is the topic of my first book, releasing August 21, 2018 titled 10 Skills for Effective Communication: Lessons from the World's Greatest Leaders. It is a user's manual based on my comprehensive research on communication, beginning with being a terribly shy communicator, to now, a marketing and communications professional. Below are a few lessons that I have learned to help you scale your influence, regardless of how you are labeled.

First, Get Your Mind Right

Becoming a great leader begins with a belief. You must actually believe that you can do it. Herein lies the problem with titles like female or introvert, and any other title of the sort: it has absolutely nothing to do with business but everything to do with belief. Our culture teaches us to believe in certain things, therefore we do.

If you grew up your entire life believing that you couldn't be something then it's really hard to wake up one day thinking entirely differently. However, it is absolutely true that you can do anything. There is your culture around you, yes, but that doesn't mean you must agree with it.

There are a lot of biases in the world of business today, and they explain a lot about our culture. Leadership roles are predominately held by men. Introverts and women are far less likely to make it through your average hiring process, and far more likely to get stuck inside their role, without advancement, if they do get the job.

So we have our status quo, and everyone seems fine with that, so long as you're in the majority. The male extrovert types just think that they are better leaders, and success is about their skills, even if not entirely (or at all) the truth.

The truth about leadership is that good leadership requires a high level of empathy. Leaders must sense and react to the cultural trends of their customers and their internal teams. Leaders need to be great listeners. They need to be able to make sound judgments with quick reaction times. A great leader is a person who delivers for their shareholders, their employees and their customers, all at once.

Notice that absolutely none of this has to do with extroversion or being a man.

Elon Musk employs First Principles Thinking, a process by which you break a concept down into its most basic components, and then use logic and common sense to come up with the best alternate solution.

For leadership, the best solution may be that personality types and genders don't have much to do with the role at all. Or, there may even be certain personality types that businesses are not capitalizing on now, but could yield greater results.

Next, Develop the Right Skills

Becoming a great leader is absolutely not an innate talent. Leadership is not birthright. Birth-right may get you a position, sure, but we've all seen the vast difference between a leader and someone with just the title. The title is what you do, and leadership is when you do it in a way that inspires and motivates others to do, as well. Here are three communication skills from my book that will help guide you.

Listen. Annoying bosses talk at you, and feeling that you are unheard can be quite demotivating. I have learned over time from many great leaders that the person who listens most can be the most powerful. This is a natural fit for introverts. We talk less and listen more. Listening is what allows you to empathize, which is a key to influence.

Empathize. The second step is to truly understand the person, or people, that you wish to lead. So much is lost in between your words and your crowd's ears. The art of listening isn't about hearing, but understanding what is truly being said.

Enroll. Thirdly, give people what they want. If you can take what you want, and recraft it to be of mutual benefit to the person you need to inspire, well that's how motivation is born. When you put everyone on the same team with a common goal, you're far more likely to achieve an optimal result.

Finally, Trust the Stats. You Are More Powerful Than You Think
Research at Harvard found that female CEOs create higher ROI on their investments, but still receive less investment than male CEOs[1]. This is what we call a bargain. Women may just be that undervalued asset that over delivers on value.

Introverts, on the other hand, spend more brain power in the thinking and reasoning side, and less on the socializing side. Introverts tend to speak less, but tend to make statements that are more well-thought out than their extroverted counterparts. When it comes to making the sound judgments a business needs, First Principles Thinking would suggest that introverts would be better suited decision makers.

Introverts, on the other hand, spend more brain power in the thinking and reasoning side, and less on the socializing side. Introverts tend to speak less, but tend to make statements that are more well-thought out than their extroverted counterparts. When it comes to making the sound judgments a business needs, First Principles Thinking would suggest that introverts would be better suited decision makers.

There is a similar case to be made for any type of person. My point being, leverage what makes you unique. You can't “average" your way to the top, after all.

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Fresh Voices

How I Went From Shy Immigrant to Co-Founder of OPI, the World's #1 Nail Brand

In many ways I am a shining example of the American Dream. I was born in Hungary during the Communist era, and my family fled to Israel before coming to the U.S. in pursuit of freedom and safety. When we arrived, I was just a young, shy girl who couldn't speak English. After my childhood in Hungary, New York City was a marvel; I couldn't believe that such a lively, rich place existed. Even a simple thing like going to the market and seeing all the bright, colorful produce and having so many choices was new to me. I'll never take that for granted. I think it's where my love affair with color truly began.


One thing I had was a strong work ethic. I worked hard in school, to learn English, and at jobs including my first job at Dairy Queen -- which I loved! Ice cream is easily my favorite food. From there, I moved into the garment district where my brother-in-law's family had a business. During this time, I was able to see how a business was run and began to hone in on my eye for aesthetics and willingness to work hard at any task I was given.

Eventually, my brother-in-law bought a dental supply company in Los Angeles and asked me to join him. LA, a place with 365-days of sunshine. How could I say no? The company started as Odontorium Products Inc. During the acrylic movement of the 1980s, we realized that nail technicians were buying our product, and that the same components used for dentures were used for artificial nails. We saw a potential opening in the market, and we seized it. OPI began dropping off the "rubber band special" at every salon on Ventura Blvd. in Los Angeles. A jar of powder, liquid and primer – rubber-banded together – became the OPI Traditional Acrylic System and was a huge hit, giving OPI its start in the professional nail industry. It was 1981 when OPI first opened its doors. I couldn't have predicted our success, but I knew that hard work and faith in myself would be key in transforming a new business into a company with global reach.

When we started OPI, what we were doing was something new. Before OPI came on the scene, the generic, utilitarian nail polish names already on the market – like Red No. 4, Pink No. 2 – were completely forgettable. We rebranded the category with catchy names that we knew women could relate to and would remember. The industry was stale and boring, so we made it more fun and sexy. We started creating color collections. I carefully developed 30 groundbreaking colors for the debut collection -- many of which are still beloved bestsellers today, including Malaga Wine, Alpine Snow and Kyoto Pearl.

There is no other nail color brand in the world that touches the totality of industries the way OPI does.

With deep roots in Tinseltown, we eventually started collaborating with Hollywood. Our decision to collaborate with the entertainment industry also propelled OPI forward in another way, ultimately leading us to finding a way to connect with women beyond the world of beauty, relating our products to the beverages they drink, the cars they drive, the movies they watch, the clothes they wear – even the shade they use to paint their living room walls! There is no other nail color brand in the world that touches the totality of industries the way OPI does. It also propelled my growth as a businessperson forward. I found myself sitting in meetings with executives from some of the top companies in the world. I didn't have a fancy presentation. I didn't have a Harvard business degree. I realized that what I had was passion. I had a passion for what we were doing, and I had my own unique story that no one else could replicate.

Discipline, hard work, and passion gave me the confidence to grow from that shy immigrant girl to become the person that I am today

Bit by bit, I grew up with the business. Discipline, hard work, and passion gave me the confidence to grow from that shy immigrant girl to become the person that I am today -- an author, public speaker, and co-founder of OPI, the world's #1 professional nail brand.

I learned quickly that one can be an expert at many things, but not everything. Running a business is very hard work. Luckily, I had someone I could collaborate with who brought something new to the table and complemented my talents, my brother-in-law George Schaeffer. My business "superpower," or the ability to make decisions quickly and confidently, kept me ahead of trends and competition.

Another key to my success in building this brand and in growing in business was being authentic. Authenticity is so important to brands and maybe even more so now in the time of social media when you can speak directly to your consumers. I realized even then that I could only be me. I was a woman who knew what I wanted. I looked at my mother and daughter and wanted to create products that would excite and empower them.

There's often an expectation placed on women in charge that they need to be cutthroat to be competitive, but that's not true. Rather than focusing on my gender or any implied limitations I might bring to the job as a female and a mother, I always focused instead on my vision. I deliberately fostered an environment at OPI filled with warmth. After all, at the end of the day, your organization is only as good as its people. I've always found that being nice, being humble, and listening to others has served me well. Instead of pushing others down to get to the top, inspire them and bring them along on the journey.

You can read more about my personal and professional journey in my new memoir out now, I'm Not Really a Waitress: How One Woman Took Over the Beauty Industry One Color at a Time.