SALT LAKE CITY — According to the Center for Applications of Psychological Type (CAPT), introverts represent approximately half (47-55 percent) of the U.S. population, even though “the population seems to be about 70 percent extraverted," according to William C. Jeffries. Highly successful individuals as diverse as Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, J.K. Rowling, Michael Jordan, Charles Darwin, Hillary Clinton and Guy Kawasaki are self-described introverts.
The secret of their successes? Embracing rather than battling their innate strengths as introverts.
One of the biggest misconceptions of the 21st century is that in order for someone to be a leader, he or she must be extroverted. The reality is that extraverts and introverts approach the world from different directions, and we need leaders of both varieties.
As Susan Cain said in her best-selling book, "Quiet," “Today’s psychologists tend to agree … that introverts and extroverts differ in the level of outside stimulation that they need to function well.”
Introvert or extrovert?
Here are a few more of the differences in the ways that extraverts and introverts interpret and interact with the world:
- prefer to think before they speak
- prefer to write out thoughts before presenting them
- prefer to recharge their batteries with alone time
- prefer solitude to conflict
- prefer to think out loud
- prefer to verbally brainstorm thoughts, then write them down
- draw energy from interacting with and being around other people
- prefer conflict to solitude
The 10 ways to nurture leadership
If you have an introverted child, here are 10 ways to nurture his thoughtful leadership qualities:
2. Encourage her to discuss a term paper only after she’s taken a stab at an initial draft. In this way, you honor and embrace her natural "reflect, discuss, reflect" thought process (Jen Lilienstein, 2012).
3. Encourage her to ask for a course outline or agenda (or create one) so that she is aware of what will be discussed during a class or meeting and arrive feeling prepared to contribute to the conversation.
4. When in a heated discussion, the introvert’s tendency is to walk away or stop talking. This is most likely not because he is shutting down, but because he needs to reflect on the discussion thus far before responding. Teach him to say, “let me think about that for a moment” if he needs to pause and reflect to indicate that he is considering what’s just been brought up. Chances are, his response will be thoughtful and thorough when you allow him the time to understand the situation from a broader perspective.
5. Recognize her ability to manage impulsivity, one of the introvert’s key strengths in Arthur Costa and Bena Kallick’s "16 Habits of Mind."
6. Model constructive conversation by teaching your introverted child to “say an appreciative word when praise is honestly due, and mention the points on which they agree with another person before they bring up the points on which they disagree." (Isabel Briggs Myers and Peterk B. Myers, 1995)
7. As Gordon Lawrence so aptly writes in his book, "Finding the Zone," “People in leadership positions who have a natural intuitive knack for reading motivation patterns are, in my experience, extremely rare. The rest of us need to deliberately investigate and learn and practice the skills.”
If your child is having a relationship issue with another child, have him imagine himself as the other child then ask himself the age-old acting question, “What’s my motivation?” Thinking through or writing down what might be driving the behavior in the other child will often better illuminate how to tackle the interpersonal issue than telling him what to do or how to handle the situation. This reflective effort will help with interpersonal strategy building and attitude toward others, which in turn, will build enviable interpersonal skills that last a lifetime.
8. Teach your young introvert to conclude each day with a three-in-five journal. In it, have her take five minutes at the end of the day to review:
- What was accomplished during the day?
- What challenges remain?
- What could make things go better tomorrow?
9. Go to the library and check out biographies of other famous introverts. Learning about them will help your introvert to imagine a life that allows her to turn inward for energy, stimulation and renewal more frequently than turning outward.
10. Remember that there are many paths to success and your child’s path may very well be different than yours, or the one you had imagined for her. More important to future success than introversion or extraversion are the qualities of “grit, tenacity, and perseverance (U.S. Department of Education, 2013),” which can be developed in every child — regardless of innate personality type.
Jen Lilienstein is the founder of Kidzmet.com and author of the book, "A Parent's Playbook for Learning." Her personality-based work has been recognized by Parent Tested Parent Approved, the National Parenting Center, and HowToLearn.com.