Confessions of a Corporate Wallflower

I’m pretty sure I’ve come close to draining my emotional bank account with Rick Chambers. He wrote an amazing piece for this blog back in November called “The Secret of Leadership: Do Nothing” that received so much more attention than anything I’ve ever written. So I asked (begged) him to write about his personal experience of being an introverted leader; his wonderful thoughts follow.

Rick is a director of Worldwide Communications for a Fortune 500 who has worked in the public relations field for more than 22 years. An award winning journalist, he is also a published author and an award-winning short-story writer. Rick is a native of Kalamazoo, Michigan. You can find out more about him on his LinkedIn profile.

Oh, and I owe him lunch (or maybe that’s plural).

A few years ago, my mom bumped into a former junior-high teacher of mine, and he quizzed her about my career in corporate public relations.

“Back when Rick was my student, if you`d told me he was going to grow up to be a media spokesperson for a major corporation, I never would have believed it,” he said.

Can`t say I blame him. Speaking to a key audience or facing the business end of a news camera is the kind of job you`d expect to give to a handsome, charming extrovert, the kind of guy who is comfortable and energized in a crowd.

I`m not that guy.

Look up “introvert” in your Webster`s, and you`ll find my picture. (Actually, you won`t?€”I didn`t show up for the photo session.) I`m the one hovering on the edge of a noisy room during a social hour, the one who collapses in his hotel room exhausted by a crowded conference, who is invigorated by a solo walk in the forest and ranks “networking” right up there with “prostate exam.”

Okay, I`m overstating it. A little. I care about the company I work for, I care about my colleagues, and I care about the people we serve. I want to do my best to build dialogue, nurture relationships and learn from them, which is what true public relations is about. Indeed, it`s what leadership is about. The challenge for me is admitting I approach those things in a different way than an extrovert might.

Such an admission came only after years of trying to remake my image. I copycatted my extroverted friends. My dad is a retired auto salesman, and I tried ripping off his mannerisms. In all of this, I failed miserably. I felt like a fake. Small talk was exhausting, networking was a chore, and I felt deeply inferior to colleagues who seemingly won friends and influenced people with ease.

But then, over time, came a realization. With maturity and sound advice from wise people, I began to learn that denying my introverted “wiring” was denying myself?€”and robbing others of the value I could bring.

An introvert`s tendency to carefully weigh answers and options is an asset in communication. An introvert`s wish for a deeper understanding of an issue or a person makes her or him a great resource, as well as considerably self aware. My introversion has made me a better writer. And understanding where I gain energy (in solitude) or expend it (in crowds) has improved the value I gain from, and give to, both.

In short, I`ve learned that neither the introvert nor the extrovert is a better leader than the other. Each is needed. Each has something to teach the other. Each brings important assets to leadership?€”assets that are applied more effectively if the leader works from a clear understanding and acceptance of how he or she is created.

I`ve learned a great deal from extroverted leaders. Indeed, I`m constantly amazed by their unique gifts. But knowing that an introvert can bring equal value is a welcome affirmation of who I am and what I provide to my career, to my colleagues and to this life.


Post to Twitter

Link to original post

Avatar

Mary Jo Asmus is the founder and President of Aspire Collaborative Services LLC, an executive coach, writer, internationally recognized thought leader, and a consultant who partners with organizations of all kinds to develop and administer coaching programs. She has “walked in your shoes” as a former leader in a Fortune company.

Leave a Reply

Confessions of a Corporate Wallflower

 

I’m pretty sure I’ve come close to draining my emotional bank account with Rick Chambers. He wrote an amazing piece for this blog back in November called “The Secret of Leadership: Do Nothing” that received so much more attention than anything I’ve ever written. So I asked (begged) him to write about his personal experience of being an introverted leader; his wonderful thoughts follow.

Rick is a director of Worldwide Communications for a Fortune 500 who has worked in the public relations field for more than 22 years. An award winning journalist, he is also a published author and an award-winning short-story writer. Rick is a native of Kalamazoo, Michigan. You can find out more about him on his LinkedIn profile.

Oh, and I owe him lunch (or maybe that’s plural).

A few years ago, my mom bumped into a former junior-high teacher of mine, and he quizzed her about my career in corporate public relations.

“Back when Rick was my student, if you’d told me he was going to grow up to be a media spokesperson for a major corporation, I never would have believed it,” he said.

Can’t say I blame him. Speaking to a key audience or facing the business end of a news camera is the kind of job you’d expect to give to a handsome, charming extrovert, the kind of guy who is comfortable and energized in a crowd.

I’m not that guy.

Look up “introvert” in your Webster’s, and you’ll find my picture. (Actually, you won’t—I didn’t show up for the photo session.) I’m the one hovering on the edge of a noisy room during a social hour, the one who collapses in his hotel room exhausted by a crowded conference, who is invigorated by a solo walk in the forest and ranks “networking” right up there with “prostate exam.”

Okay, I’m overstating it. A little. I care about the company I work for, I care about my colleagues, and I care about the people we serve. I want to do my best to build dialogue, nurture relationships and learn from them, which is what true public relations is about. Indeed, it’s what leadership is about. The challenge for me is admitting I approach those things in a different way than an extrovert might.

Such an admission came only after years of trying to remake my image. I copycatted my extroverted friends. My dad is a retired auto salesman, and I tried ripping off his mannerisms. In all of this, I failed miserably. I felt like a fake. Small talk was exhausting, networking was a chore, and I felt deeply inferior to colleagues who seemingly won friends and influenced people with ease.

But then, over time, came a realization. With maturity and sound advice from wise people, I began to learn that denying my introverted “wiring” was denying myself—and robbing others of the value I could bring.

An introvert’s tendency to carefully weigh answers and options is an asset in communication. An introvert’s wish for a deeper understanding of an issue or a person makes her or him a great resource, as well as considerably self aware. My introversion has made me a better writer. And understanding where I gain energy (in solitude) or expend it (in crowds) has improved the value I gain from, and give to, both.

In short, I’ve learned that neither the introvert nor the extrovert is a better leader than the other. Each is needed. Each has something to teach the other. Each brings important assets to leadership—assets that are applied more effectively if the leader works from a clear understanding and acceptance of how he or she is created.

I’ve learned a great deal from extroverted leaders. Indeed, I’m constantly amazed by their unique gifts. But knowing that an introvert can bring equal value is a welcome affirmation of who I am and what I provide to my career, to my colleagues and to this life.


Post to Twitter

Link to original post

Avatar

Mary Jo Asmus is the founder and President of Aspire Collaborative Services LLC, an executive coach, writer, internationally recognized thought leader, and a consultant who partners with organizations of all kinds to develop and administer coaching programs. She has “walked in your shoes” as a former leader in a Fortune company.

Uncategorized

Leave a Reply