Category Archives: Quiet Influence

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.


World Domination for Introverts

the introvert's waydembling.jpg.380x380_q85

I met author and blogger Sophia Dembling online at the start of the wave of introvert attention.  I love her book The Introvert’s Way, a laugh out loud treatise on the inside experience of living as an introvert. She also wrote a great piece called, “Nine Signs You Might Be An Introvert” that might help many of you answer the perennial question about your introvert identity:) Am I one?

We had the chance to meet in person in her adopted home town of Dallas, TX. and it was like we had always known each other. She didn’t “appear” introverted in the stereotypical sense. Outgoing, verbal and funny, we joked that she would go back home and take a nap after our time together.

I found myself returning to Sophia’s quotes when writing Quiet Influence. She is a very wise woman.

Some samples…
“Introversion 3.0 is when we stop arguing with prevailing extroversion, stop justifying our behavior (to ourselves as well as others), stop fitting our introversion in where we can and instead consciously and intentionally act in ways that put our strengths to use. We’re getting a handle on the touchy-feely stuff, now it’s time for some nuts and bolts…………..”

And Sophia continues,

“In all my reading, writing, and talking about introversion, I’ve discovered that the more familiar I become with my own introversion, and the more my choices consciously factor it in, the easier it is to do things that once were odious. Knowing I’m not required to answer the phone makes it easier to answer. Our evolving understanding of introversion shines an entirely new light on our behaviors. And they look a lot better than they used to.

Among the many things I’ve learned through comments on this blog (referring to her popular Psychology Today blog) is that introverts are different as snowflakes. Our thresholds for energy depletion, our motivation to interact with people, certainly our interests and abilities, all vary wildly. But we also have many broad similarities. And what we know about introverts in general provides an interesting framework on which to structure our behavior for maximum effect.

That’s what Quiet Influence is about. It pushes back against the not-so-truism that you have to be an extrovert to succeed, and discusses ways introverts can consciously play to our strengths.

And that, my friends, is the next step towards introvert world domination.”

I love the idea of a quieter, calmer, more thoughtful world. Who knows, Sophia may just be right.

Listen and then do something

Blogger and Skillsoft leader Shawn Hunter has a background as interesting as it gets. As a former ranch hand and teacher in Korea he brings a quirky wit and counterintuitive view to each of his interviews. I had the pleasure of participating in one of Skillsoft’s leadership conversations that Shawn hosted from his barn in Maine. As his dog Penny slept on the couch we talked about how quiet influencers shine. (I tried not to think about the 450 listeners on the line so that I could follow Shawn’s provocative questions:)). Give a listen and let us know what you think.

Shawn wrote a piece about the overuse of listening that I think you might enjoy. I believe that any strength overused does become a weakness and he highlights the points in QI about how too much listening can be a barrier in making a difference.



Introverts Rule (Quietly)

So many of my colleagues are quiet influencers. Julie Winkle Guilioni co-author with Beverly Kaye of  the powerfully packed book Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go  is a quiet influencer who understands how to motivate introverted employees. This great book teaches us how to have the important conversations that keep people engaged in their work and careers.

I was moved by Julie’s own account of her introversion in her recent blog entry, Introverts Rule (Quietly). Here’s an excerpt: ” For most of my professional life, I’ve admired and envied the extroverted leaders around me.  Ahhhh, to demonstrate such confidence, energy, and power. For decades, I believed that at some point – after a lot or professional experience, after having my own business, after working with executives and Fortune 100 companies, after writing a book – I would graduate to that status and express myself in a similar fashion.”

Read more about Julie’s  quiet influence insights here:

“What books would you bring on introvert island?”

imagesI have met some wonderful colleagues like Beth Buelow  coach and author who is bringing the introvert message to light. She proved to a be terrific interviewer in a recent podcast and used the quiet strength of preparation to make that happen.

My favorite Beth question? “What 3 books would you bring on introvert island and why?” What is making you smile inside today was another(great introvert question by the way)

Curious what your answers would be:)