We exchanged a few pleasantries before sitting down at the table. We rarely converse about world affairs preferring to stick to matters of the mind and heart, but today I asked him what he thought about all the daily noise we hear coming in from around the globe. "Irwin, my boy, you are absolutely correct. There is too much noise these days to suit me. Globally, we have a problem with leaders wanting to be bigger, badder, and louder than their counterparts. Sometimes their 'screaming' is deafening. And I think this will be an excellent topic for our lesson today because it applies to all of us in one way or another. Tadpole, a leader is best when the frogs barely know he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say; we did it ourselves. This is the art of leadership at its best. We might say that it is the art that conceals art. And it applies to anyone who leads or commands a group, organization, or country." I thought about what Dharma had just said and it reminded me of the old saying "all talk and no action." Unfortunately this is all too true today. The world would be far better off if leaders were doing more working and less talking.
Dharma explained to me that true leaders aren't born but evolve into their role over time. Leaders are made rather than born. Learning and leadership should go hand-in-hand. They are necessary for each other. Leaders learn to become leaders and then continue to learn in their role of leader. Most work done in the world today is accomplished by individuals who stand outside of the limelight and lead with a calm confidence. Traditionally, we think of leaders as extroverts. They are the ones who get hired for the job because they are perceived as the ones who will get the job done. But perhaps, Dharma suggested, it is time to look a more introverted-type of leader. Despite growing evidence, the popular view persists "that extroverts are better leaders because of the "halo effect"-the stereotype of the charismatic leader in Western culture, especially prevalent in business. The researchers reported that whereas just 50% of the general population is extroverted, 96% of managers and executives display extroverted personalities. And the higher you go in a corporate hierarchy, the more likely you are to find highly extroverted individuals." But Dharma gave me five exceptional reasons why having quieter, more introverted leaders might actually be better. 1. They think first and talk later. They consider what others have to say, then reflect and respond. As Dharma reminded me, this eliminates the "open mouth, insert foot syndrome" and gives the leader fresh new perspectives on the issues at hand. 2. They focus on depth, not superficiality. Quiet leaders dig deep into issues and ideas before considering new ones; like meaningful conversations rather than ones based on simply chatter, 3. They exude calm, especially in times of crisis. They project reassurance and an unflappable confidence. 4. They prefer writing to talking (this doesn't include the use of social media in case you were wondering) and are more comfortable with the written word. This then helps them formulate their spoken words. 5. They embrace solitude and don't feel the need to be the constant center of attention. rather, they prefer to remain in the background. While in solitude, they energize and recharge. Introverted leaders often suffer from "people exhaustion" and need time to retreat into privacy. They emerge with renewed energy and clarity.
Dharma believes that our world has been damaged by excessively charismatic and ego-driven leaders in both business and in government and perhaps we could all benefit from having a more balanced view when it comes to the appeal of extroverted leaders.
As Dharma prepared to leave for the week, he reminded of a quote from William Shakespeare's Macbeth, " Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
In modern context, I take this to mean; "Life is nothing more than an illusion. It’s like a poor actor who struts and worries for his hour on the stage and then is never heard from again. Life is a story told by an idiot, full of noise and emotional disturbance but devoid of meaning." And is that the kind of world we want to leave for our children? Let's not make our time on the planet all about ego and devoid of any real or lasting meaning. Hiring and electing leaders who are working for the common good and not for their own ego, might be a good place to start.