Monday, September 23, 2013

Is there a place for the quiet leader?

Part of the discussions my firm is having about the next ten years involves leadership. Some of the conversations are basic--who's retiring, who's staying, who's advancing or should be advanced, and so on. Some of these conversations are more abstract and revolve around leadership itself. We've had previous discussions about what does it take to reach certain titles in our office, but there's still something lacking, something not quite right about those rules.

Many of our firm's, and indeed our society's, hallmarks of leadership include what might be considered extroverted behaviors and traits. Speaking up (and often), being visible, tooting your own horn, being involved in multiple visible roles, etc. are often considered what it takes to be a "leader" in our culture. But if we are to believe the research presented in Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking (and I do believe it myself), we need quiet, more reserved, and less "out there" leaders as much as we do the social butterfly multitaskers that we've rewarded with leadership roles and power for so long.

I'm often thought of as an extrovert, but the truth is I prefer to work alone or with only one or two more people, and I require a lot of alone time to recover from public speaking and teaching engagements. I consider myself just barely an extrovert, but I also find myself getting louder and more involved and vocal when something really matters to me. Even now while trying to slog through my burnout and get some much-needed rest, I find myself compelled to be involved in these long-range planning efforts going on in my firm right now. This is due in part to the fact that it's something I've wanted to be involved in for a long time, and it's also due to the fact that whenever something needs to be done as part of this planning, there is only a handful of people willing to do it falls into my lap or the lap of one of a few colleagues. Extroversion through coercion, so it seems.

So I do wonder: is there a place for the quiet leader, the monotasker, the thoughtful sage in lieu of the verbose savior? And can architecture make that kind of leader work both in its firms and as its face in society?


  1. It's tough to be a rainmaker without being an extrovert, but it is done. Leading a firm by developing its brand, its perception in the public with regard to the quality of its work and design, is something that an extrovert can often excel at. I think you need at least one extrovert leader, but there can be a place at the table for everyone.

  2. Good to see you're doing better. I used your website successfully to vamp up my resume. In September, I left South Florida and ended up in two teaching positions in Central Mass! Now, I'm enrolled in a Graduate program in the university I awesome is that?! Thanks!

    On another note, leading and teaching how to lead is literally a huge portion of my job description. I just want to say there are many forms of leadership. You choose your own way that works for you and allows you to personify your idea of good ethics. There is such a thing as being a social introvert. Don't try to change yourself; modify the way you lead to reflect on your personality. Last note on this, read, read, read: charisma building, manipulation, lighting up rooms with your personality. Remember, don't try to change your personality based on books or other people; try to make your personality work for you.