From The Mouth Of An Introverted Exec


More validation for introverted leaders playing to their strengths. In the Sunday NY Times piece “Rah Rah Isn’t For Everyone” Adam Bryant interviews introverted leader Jilly Stephens, Executive Director of City Harvest.

A few excerpts with my comments in italics:

Q. What’s it like to work with you day to day? Do you do a lot of all-hands meetings?

A. I’m more low-key. I do walk around. I’m introverted by nature, so I’m not somebody who’s holding sort of big rah-rah meetings. I love the idea of having a big bell outside my office that we can ring when we get a big donation, but it’s just not me. But I do spend time talking with people. She knows herself and what works for her. Connecting one on one works well for introverted leaders.

Q. A lot of managers are introverted, yet they’re expected to be extroverted in leadership roles. What’s your advice for them?

A. Find what fits for you. My predecessor here ran fantastic all-staff meetings every month that were just jaw-droppingly good. She was just so magnetic. I realized pretty quickly that wasn’t a mantle I should try to shoulder. Again, doing it her way, not trying to be someone else.

Q. What’s your best advice to people who are becoming managers for the first time?

A. It’s important that you communicate clearly with people who are going to be reporting to you, that you be as open as possible about who you are, what they should know about you, what they should understand about you, and how you like to operate. Discussing your style is great. Modeling this openness probably helps her team be more open about their preferences. And they know how to approach her.

I remember learning that very early on in my own career — having to sit and think about what I needed to let people know about me. I even said to people that I’ve been told that I look angry a lot of the time, and I’m usually not. It’s just my face, so just don’t be put off by that. Confirms what introverts tell me. People paint all sorts of feelings and attitudes that aren’t there – sadness, depression, etc,  Many female introverts say they are told they are “snobby and stuck up.”


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