Category Archives: introverted leader

Remembering Dr. Roosevelt Thomas, Jr.


The world lost a great man last week. Dr. Roosevelt Thomas, Jr. passed away suddenly. His family, church,  professional colleagues and hundreds of friends spilled out into the street at Friendship Baptist Church to honor him on what would have been his 69th birthday.

I had the rare privilege of knowing Dr. Roosevelt Thomas, Jr. in recent years as a fellow Berrett-Koehler author and colleague. We had a several thoughtful conversations and I was impressed by his openness to learning new marketing approaches for getting his messages out into the world.

Roosevelt was  a trailblazer in diversity, a past Dean of Clark Atlanta Business School, Secretary of Morehouse College and a widely known consultant and thought leader. I remember hearing him speak to a group of HR managers at a local Society of Human Resource Management meeting where he presented some provocative new ideas about how we must embrace differences and reject assimilation. Do not ignore the issues of race and gender, he said.  Dr. Thomas redefined diversity as a business issue that speaks to the bottom line.

Roosevelt’s stellar record and significant contributions to redefining diversity could fill volumes. He was the author of seven published books and recognized by the Wall Street Journal as one of the top ten consultants in the country. And his academic credentials are no less impressive; Morehouse College Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude in Mathematics and Education, an MBA from the University of Chicago and a Doctorate from what one of fraternity brothers jokingly called  “The Morehouse of the North,” Harvard.

As the sun poured in on that packed sanctuary, It was obvious from the many heartfelt tributes that Roosevelt made a true difference in this world. One mourner quoted an African proverb, “You are only dead when you are forgotten”, expressing what we all felt; he will never be forgotten. His lovely daughter, April encouraged us to take his baton and take action.  And while friends and family  noted his numerous achievements and incredible work ethic, what they spoke of most was his humility and the way he listened before he spoke. He was the epitome of an introverted leader and quiet influencer.

Roosevelt, may I savor your silent humility and call it up before I have an urge to “talk out” my thoughts. Thank you for that gift and for the many others you bestowed upon the world. RIP.




No free drink?


My friend Marty sent me a text, “Hey, I saw your mug flying home on Delta tonight.” That was a nice surprise and an honor. Delta picked Quiet Influence:The Introvert’s Guide To Making a Difference for it’s “Hot List” in May’s Sky Magazine.

Filled with pride, I tried asking the flight attendant if I could get a free flight (or even a free drink?) but she smiled and said, “That’s nice, but sorry.” Not even any perks for writing most of the book on your airplanes?:) I think I will try working on my Quiet Influence Quotient  to get some sway on my hometown airline.

“May I Borrow Some of Your Quiet Courage?”



I am so pleased that Pearl Alexander decided to speak from her heart and write this wonderful piece  about her experience as an introverted HR leader. Called “Leveraging Diversity of Temperament,” in it  Pearl fully embraces who she is and calls for extroverts to let her speak. She writes, ” Despite having a proven track record, I’m still measured by the standards expected of an extroverted leader, and so I am on a quest for influencing new practices. These include teaching and coaching leaders to recognize, value and leverage diversity of temperament. The work of psychiatrist Carl Jung distinguishes the neuroscience and physical realities of temperament.  There are times when the introverted leader struggles to be visible and heard during the chatty, extrovert-led meetings.  One awaits a pause or well-timed invitation into a conversation that may never occur.  An extrovert exercising the competencies of connection and compassion can change that. 

Here is the blog post I wrote about Pearl’s well received talk at a program we presented together in Atlanta.

“I recently had the privilege of sharing the stage with an introverted leader I admire. Pearl Alexander, Senior Director, HR and Workforce Strategy at the Georgia Institute of Technology is a woman who makes such a difference at her organization and beyond.

In our time together, Pearl shared her personal reflections on embracing her role and owning her quiet strengths. She was kind enough to offer me permission to share her thoughts with all of you. I have highlighted my favorite lines in italics and will think of Pearl when I am dipping into my “quiet courage.” What parts resonate with you and why?

Introvert Moments©

I have a confession to make. Because of being an introverted leader I have not always been keenly aware of my need for belonging. It’s a legitimate need we all have. You see I have proudly worn the label and accepted the position of “not fitting in” or having a temperament that is difficult to appreciate. That is until recently.

Back in 2010, I had the distinct privilege of serving Georgia Tech as the chief diversity strategist while we searched for our first Vice President of Institute Diversity. I had volunteered for this role and was totally jazzed to be working closely with Georgia Tech’s then newly minted president, Dr. G.P. Bud Peterson. One day as I was awaiting my one-on-one meeting with President Peterson someone who knew both of us fairly well, jokingly, said to me: “Pearl, you are so quiet, what could you and the president possibly talk about for an hour?” I smiled and softly replied, you have no idea! The truth be told, an hour was never enough for the two of us. He’s an introverted leader for sure! These and other moments serve to remind me of my need for belonging. With him I felt genuinely accepted, valued, and not interpreted. As a Diversity and Inclusion and Human Resource leader, I have sought to raise my own consciousness by embracing this need for belonging and I intentionally relate to others differently.

I have always embraced my introversion; it allows me to enjoy my own company so completely. However, I must accept that it’s human and okay to actually need to belong with all types of people. Sure, I can survive without belonging, but I can’t thrive without belonging despite my temperament.
My extroverted colleagues seem to appreciate me most when they need to borrow some of my “quiet courage.” In my space they can speak their truths, their fears, and their shame. I wouldn’t trade anything for those moments and don’t want to deprive myself of connecting, forming bonds, and co-creating something beautiful together.
I’ve learned that I must be mindful that my quietness isn’t sending the wrong messages – like, I don’t want to be with you, or I don’t belong to you. After marathon meetings or brainstorming sessions, I sneak away for moments of reflection and solitude as a matter of survival. When my psychic energy is depleted, my thoughts come slower; it is harder to speak coherently, and the crankier I get!! But those moments of solitude, help me to emerge wiser, and amazingly useful! Simply put, quietness may say something. It leaves an emotional wake.

Are MC Hammer and Star Jones Introverts?

A piece popped up this week on called Six Ways Introverts Can Be More Powerful.  and before I knew it, my social media friends let me know that a blast from my kids 80’s past, MC Hammer,  was tweeting the article to his 3 million plus followers. Soon after, I was told that Star Jones was spreading the word.

I was intrigued and have been advised to thank my “tweeters” so I did but no word yet back from them. My question to these two celebs: “Are you introverted or extroverted?” My research tells me that performers are typically introverted. They go on stage, perform and even connect with huge audiences. However they tend to retreat and recharge afterwards.

More importantly, I am thrilled that reporter Susan Adams of Forbes chose to highlight the examples of Haley Kirkpatrick, Selah Abrams, Julie Irving, and “Jake” who have made such a difference by challenging the status quo, provoking new ways of thinking, effecting change and inspiring others. They are the real celebrities.


New Perspective on the Yahoo Move

Since my initial post on this there has been a firestorm of opinion on Mayer’s move to bring people back to the workplace. Women, men and introverted leaders have responded with a thumbs down.

Consultant and Co-Author of Authentic Conversations, Maren Showkeir, responded to the Yahoo move to bring employees back to the office in a thoughtful piece today in the Arizona Republic. Her points about this being an example of “command and control leadership” are strong ones as are her suggestions for involving employees in decisions to improve the company’s performance.

“The attraction to making unilateral decisions at the top is strong, based on decades of corporate command-and-control culture. But in the modern workplace, that sort of strategy has outlived its usefulness. No matter how brilliant, competent and driven the 37-year-old Mayer is, it’s impossible for her alone to make Yahoo successful. Mayer and other corporate CEOs would do well to recognize the invaluable asset of their organizations’ collective wisdom and employ methods to tap it.”

What do you think about this?