Ted Talk of the Week – The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain

I was instantly attracted to this new Ted Talk because I feel like I have often fallen into this habit of urging my students to be bold and get out there and put themselves forward. Be noticed!

Parindra – The Extrovert

I have often held up my extroverted students as examples. I’ve celebrated Parindra the confident, gregarious student who somehow made me his best friend in the breaks with his deft social skills and see-through flattery, which, I hate to admit, somehow worked on me. You must think I’m shallow…

I guess I constantly see people like Parindra get ahead. They get their foot in the door by being charming and endlessly putting themselves forward for opportunities even when there don’t seem to be any.

The Extrovert in Australia

But I guess what this Ted Talk made me see was that extroverts are supremely celebrated across America, and I would say Australia too, and maybe unjustly. I suspect, however, this isn’t the case in many cultures, where being predominantly a quiet, independent worker is much more respected and rewarded. I imagine a leader also looks different in this culture.

Leadership in Australia

Parindra will do well in Australia – I have no doubt. However, I would like to see Australia become less focused on the lion and start to celebrate the owl. Sharing the leadership between extroverts and introverts is also in line with embracing a more diverse workforce – a more diverse Australia. We need to stop seeing just the Richard Bransons as the quintessential leaders.

Back to teaching – my promise to my students

I will make more of an effort in my classes in the future to nurture the more introverted students and diversify my activities to accommodate the quiet thinkers, those that need quiet time to reflect and come up with potentially more well-thought out plans and solutions to problems and ultimately and hopefully I will nurture a quietly confident leader or two that will embrace a more diverse and thoughtful workforce. Optimistic, maybe… or maybe not?

So, in the words of Susan Cain:

  1. Stop the madness for constant group work…just stop it!
  2. Go to the wilderness…be like Buddha…have your own revelations!
  3. Take a good look at what’s inside your own suitcase and why you put it there!

And have the courage to speak softly!