I have been reading the book “Quiet: The Power of Intraverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain and firstly I am filled with gratitude. After spending the last three years as an intravert in the role of CEO, it is wonderful to read a book that describes my experience of being in that role so beautifully.
Of course, many would not recognise me as an intravert. I love people and have become somewhat adept in social situations. I have trained and practiced in networking and public speaking so I can be more confident and effective in doing that. I can play the role and turn on when I need to, but the truth is that it is more like playing a character. People and social settings are great and enjoyable for me, but they don’t energise me. Actually, I found this aspect of the role incredibly draining. For me I need personal space, time, quiet and room for contemplation to be most effective and to recharge my batteries.
This kind of self-knowledge is hard won (and I’m still only in the beginning of that journey). I sat in denial of my intraversion and needs for personal space and quiet. I tried to be like others (dangerous), or live and work up to what I believed was expected of me as a CEO. And while I think me pushing myself had some benefit to the organisation, it did come at some cost to me.
The thing this book talks so beautifully about is not just intraversion, but the social consciousness that seeks and celebrates extraversion. Our western world loves the extravert CEO and social entrepreneur. We celebrate and promote a mold of entrepreneur that has charisma and confidence. But what about the qualities of quite confidence, empathy, sensitivity and deep thinking?
To me these qualities are so vital in the world of doing good. Changemaking is about dealing with complex situations, unknown answers and people’s lives. While we (as society) so desperately seek answers, hope and confidence, perhaps we actually need a greater capacity to sit and be still, to listen, to be empathic and wait for wisdom to enter.
I am wondering, what the world of quiet entrepreneurship might look like? How do we nurture these qualities and this style of doing good? How can we make more room for reflection and contemplation as a critical part of the changemaking process?