I listened to the next presidential candidate put his hat in the ring. My ears were not deceiving me, were they? Had former Governor Jeb Bush just called himself an introvert?
I replayed the clip a few times and sure enough, there was the “I” word. Jeb said, “I’m different than George….” I will share all about that…It is something that took some getting used to since I am kind of introverted.”
The press has latched onto the introvert moniker and that is significant because it is different. In the past presidents, let alone aspiring presidential candidates would not have seen this label as a positive. Consider Washington, Adams or Jefferson, all considered to be introverted. I don’t think they would have used the term, do you?
New York Magazine in a somewhat tongue and cheek fashion, actually pegged candidate Bush’s key word as “introvert. “It is horse-race scripture that all presidential candidates must be boiled down to one adjective by the end of the election. The word must be appended to every story profiling the candidate, or the story must be discredited. To understand Jeb Bush, you must never forget that he is an introvert.”
President Obama never said he is an introvert, but after studying his temperament I believe he shows the characteristics of an introvert. His measured words, preference for privacy and distaste for socializing offer a few clues.
But this time around, we actually have a candidate publicly owning his introversion Bush said that he has determined he is an introvert based on his Myers-Briggs assessment results. He also said “he would rather read a book than go out on a conga line. “ In the CNN clip, he also describes himself as a good listener, a skill often associated with introversion.
So does this mean that we now accept introversion as a valued personality trait in our leaders? Yes and no. It is more socially acceptable for leaders to view introversion as a positive quality. In time, as there is more understanding about its meaning, public perception has also shifted in a more positive direction.
It was as recently as 4 years ago that I was interviewed by Joann Lublin, the WSJ reporter about a story on introverted executives. Joannn had a difficult time finding introverted leaders who would talk with her on the record! I would like to think she would have an easier time today.
Big ships don’t change direction as easily as people do. We still have miles to go in exploding the myth that a leader needs to have a Type A, highly energetic and outwardly charismatic vibe to succeed. But the “rise of the introverts” is in full swing. There is no stopping it now.