I've always been an introvert and a woman—two traits which aren't exactly relished by the business world.
Yet I am also a long-time leader in my organiziaton. I am, therefore, writing this to argue in favor of the introverts and women out there and 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 woman 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 skills are not a birthright. High birth 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 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 ThinkResearch at Harvard found that woman CEOs create higher ROI on their investments, but still receive less investment than male CEOs. 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.
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.
This piece was originally published February 5, 2019.
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The Armchair Psychologist has all the answers you need!
Help! I Might Get Fired!
Dear Armchair Psychologist,
What's the best way to be prepared for a layoff? Because of the crisis, I am worried that my company is going to let me go soon, what can I do to be prepared? Is now a good time to send resumes? Should I save money? Redesign my website? Be proactive at work? Make myself non-disposable?
- Restless & Jobless
Dear Restless & Jobless,
I'm sorry that you're feeling anxious about your employment status. There are many people like yourself in this pandemic who are navigating an uncertain future, many have already lost their jobs. In my experience as a former professional recruiter for almost a decade, I always told my candidates the importance of periodically being passively on the market. This way, you'd know your worth, and you'd be able to track the market rates that may have changed over time, and sometimes even your job title which might have evolved unbeknownst to you.
This is a great time to reach out to your network, update your online professional presence (LinkedIn etc.), and send resumes. Though I'm not a fan of sending a resume blindly into a large database. Rather, talk to friends or email acquaintances and have them directly introduce you to someone who knows someone at a list of companies and people you have already researched. It's called "working closest to the dollar."
Here's a useful article with some great COVID-times employment tips; it suggests to "post ideas, articles, and other content that will attract and engage your target audience—specifically recruiters." If you're able to, try to steer away from focusing too much on the possibility of getting fired, instead spend your energy being the best you can be at work, and also actively being on the job market. Schedule as many video calls as you can, there's nothing like good ol' face-to-face meetings to get yourself on someone's radar. If your worries get the best of you, I recommend you schedule time with a qualified therapist. When you're ready, lean into that video chat and werk!
- The Armchair Psychologist
HELP! AM I A FRAUD?
Dear Armchair Psychologist,
I'm an independent consultant in NYC. I just filed for unemployment, but I feel a little guilty collecting because a) I'm not looking for a job (there are none anyway) and b) the company that will pay just happens to be the one that had me file a W2 last year; I've done other 1099 work since then.
I'm sorry that you're wracked with guilt. It's admirable that your conscience is making you re-evaluate whether you are entitled to "burden the system" so to speak as a state's unemployment funds can run low. Shame researchers, like Dr. Brené Brown, believe that the difference between shame and guilt is that shame is often rooted in the self/self-worth and is often destructive whereas guilt is based on one's behavior and compels us to do better. "I believe that guilt is adaptive and helpful – it's holding something we've done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort."
Your guilt sounds like a healthy problem. Many people feel guilty about collecting unemployment benefits because of how they were raised and the assumption that it's akin to "seeking charity." You're entitled to your unemployment benefits, and it was paid into a fund for you by your employer with your own blood, sweat, and tears. Also, you aren't committing an illegal act. The benefits are there to relieve you in times when circumstances prevent you from having a job. Each state may vary, but the NY State Department of Labor requires that you are actively job searching. The Cares Act which was passed in March 2020 also may provide some relief. I recommend that you collect the relief you need but to be sure that you meet the criteria by actively searching for a job just in case anyone will hire you.
- The Armchair Psychologist