Learning about leading introverts from the expert

Last month I was lucky enough to attend a talk by Susan Cain organised by the London Business Forum. I have been a fan of Susan’s work ever since I read her book ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’ which helped me understand myself a lot better and see myself in a completely new way.

So when I heard she was coming to the UK to speak about leading introverts I knew I had to go. Although the thought of attending the session on my own felt somewhat daunting, my interest and passion for the subject helped me get over that quickly.

The first thing I noticed when I arrived was how well-attended it was. I hadn’t been sure what to expect in terms of numbers as it’s a fairly specialist topic, but there were a lot of people in the audience reinforcing how important this area is.

The talk itself covered a number of areas, from attending meetings to being an introverted leader. Susan started off by asking the audience to consider whether a great leader or thinker needed to be gregarious or dominant, stating that she wanted to challenge this concept. As soon as those words left her mouth, I knew this was going to be a great session!

I learned a lot, but the biggest thing I took away was this – whilst we may need to stretch our comfort zone at times, that is completely different to being someone we are not. I took great comfort in that because for me it’s so important to remain true to myself. That is something I’ve only learned in the past couple of years. Before then I would often be two different people – I thought being quieter meant I wouldn’t fit in or wouldn’t get ahead so I tried to hide that part of me. It was exhausting.

One of the things I am personally going to try after attending the talk and which Susan herself suggested is to think about what I want to say before attending a meeting and to make myself speak up early. Apparently, the idea that is put forward early in a meeting becomes the one that others centre around, and comments and ideas are more likely to be directed to that person. Also, I know from painful experience that the longer I wait to say something in a meeting the more difficult it becomes.

It was a great session and I came out feeling energised. And I left with a signed book!

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