I’m deep into the book “Quiet” and wondering why it has taken me so long to read it. The book opens with a manifesto for introverts, a list of 10 truths on a bright red page that’s impossible to pass by. I identify with them all but was especially drawn to #8:
“Quiet leadership” is not an oxymoron.
Operating as an introvert in the wild world of PR was not always easy. A wallflower at heart, I was used to hiding behind words. Reading and writing have been two of my great loves.
But public relations work requires more in the way of human relations and putting yourself out there. For those of us most at home in a small, safe group of people, it can be real work learning how to “work a room,” to network and to win over a stranger with confidence.
Reading this book, I realize just how far I’ve come.
I can point to three turning points along the way, when I started winning, dancing and leading.
- One major turning point for me, when I believed I could thrive in public relations, was leading and winning a new business pitch. Although there were small wins and certainly losses along the way, this was a thrust-into-it moment. I didn’t sleep the night before and somehow pulled it off. Like magic, with that win, my mind turned off its can’t button and turned on can, and it’s stayed in the right mode ever since.
- About halfway through my career, we did a group exercise around a personality profile called DiSC. I looked around a room full of extroverted “I’s” and felt like a complete fraud. But later that same day, I was dancing in front of that room. I won’t go into details, other than it wasn’t pretty and it was embarrassing and freeing all at once. In one day, I discovered that every personality has its strengths, and once in a while a wallflower should get out and dance.
- When my partnership at the agency was announced, I felt uneasy. I was ready, but was I viewed as a leader? And then, one by one, some of my colleagues had very kind things to say, not in front of everyone, but in private conversations and personal emails, and I have never forgotten them. Those words of genuine confidence, happiness and congratulations from my team meant the world to me. It was confirmation that I could lead in my very own skin and style.
I used to dislike my shyness and envy the extroverts who made winning, dancing and leading look easy. But I recognize now how a mix of extroverts and introverts is totally essential to team success. Introverts choose their words carefully, communicate strategically and quietly bring something else to the table.
I find inspiration and energy from the extroverts around me – and there are many of you – and admire how we balance each other.
Quiet leadership is not an oxymoron. And I’m always looking for other wallflowers I can help onto the dance floor.
Robin Bulanti has spent the past 18 years working closely with high tech clients on communications strategy, corporate positioning and building executive brands. As president, she also oversees the agency’s new business, professional development and services. Contact Robin here.