#SWAAYthenarrative
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Career

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 organization. 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.

I've always been an introvert and a woman—two traits which aren't exactly relished by the business world.

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.

Leaders need to be great listeners.

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 Think

Research 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.

How to Learn Much More From the Books You Read

It is one thing to read and another thing to understand what you are reading. Not only do you want to understand, but also remember what you've read. Otherwise, we can safely say that if we're not gaining anything from what we read, then it's a big waste of time.

Whatever you read, there are ways to do so in a more effective manner to help you understand better. Whether you are reading by choice, for an upcoming test, or work-related material, here are a few ways to help you improve your reading skills and retain that information.

Read with a Purpose

Never has there been a shortage of great books. So, someone recommended a great cookbook for you. You start going through it, but your mind is wandering. This doesn't mean the cookbook was an awful recommendation, but it does mean it doesn't suit nor fulfill your current needs or curiosity.

Maybe your purpose is more about launching a business. Maybe you're a busy mom and can't keep office hours, but there's something you can do from home to help bring in more money, so you want information about that. At that point, you won't benefit from a cookbook, but you could gain a lot of insight and find details here on how-to books about working from home. During this unprecedented year, millions have had to make the transition to work from home, and millions more are deciding to do that. Either way, it's not a transition that comes automatically or easily, but reading about it will inform you about what working from home entails.

Pre-Read

When you pre-read it primes your brain when it's time to go over the full text. We pre-read by going over the subheadings, for instance, the table of contents, and skimming through some pages. This is especially useful when you have formal types of academic books. Pre-reading is a sort of warm-up exercise for your brain. It prepares your brain for the rest of the information that will come about and allows your brain to be better able to pick the most essential pieces of information you need from your chosen text.

Highlight

Highlighting essential sentences or paragraphs is extremely helpful for retaining information. The problem, however, with highlighting is that we wind up highlighting way too much. This happens because we tend to highlight before we begin to understand. Before your pages become a neon of colored highlights, make sure that you only highlight what is essential to improve your understanding and not highlight the whole page.

Speed Read

You might think there have been no new ways to read, but even the ancient skill of reading comes up with innovative ways; enter speed reading. The standard slow process shouldn't affect your understanding, but it does kill your enthusiasm. The average adult goes through around 200 to 250 words per minute. A college student can read around 450 words, while a professor averages about 650 words per minute, to mention a few examples. The average speed reader can manage 1,500 words; quite a difference! Of course, the argument arises between quality and quantity. For avid readers, they want both quantity and quality, which leads us to the next point.

Quality Reading

Life is too short to expect to gain knowledge from just one type of genre. Some basic outcomes of reading are to expand your mind, perceive situations and events differently, expose yourself to other viewpoints, and more. If you only stick to one author and one type of material, you are missing out on a great opportunity to learn new things.

Having said that, if there's a book you are simply not enjoying, remember that life is also too short to continue reading it. Simply, close it, put it away and maybe give it another go later on, or give it away. There is no shame or guilt in not liking a book; even if it's from a favorite author. It's pretty much clear that you won't gain anything from a book that you don't even enjoy, let alone expect to learn something from it.

Summarize

If you're able to summarize what you have read, then you have understood. When you summarize, you are bringing up all the major points that enhance your understanding. You can easily do so chapter by chapter.

Take a good look at your life and what's going on in it. Accordingly, you'll choose the material that is much more suitable for your situation and circumstances. When you read a piece of information that you find beneficial, look for a way to apply it to your life. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge isn't all that beneficial. But the application of knowledge from a helpful book is what will help you and make your life more interesting and more meaningful.