Book Review: The Introverted Leader by Jennifer Kahnweiler

Nobody has a cast-iron definition of what it means to be an introvert, but a pretty common symptom seems to be that social interactions are draining. A symptom I would add is a sense of inertia when initiating social interactions with new people. Trouble is, people leadership is all about interacting with people. The Introverted Leader by Jennifer Kahnweiler provides some interesting tools for upping one’s leadership game if you are an introvert, although a summary of the book might well be just as useful.

Continuing the theme of leadership books, this past week I read The Introverted Leader: Building your quiet strength. My gut reaction to the book is that it is a bit America-centric, and paints a picture of an almost Jocks-versus-Geeks-like gap between Extroverts and Introverts. I can only hope this is for dramatic effect, and that business culture in the USA is not actually like that. Upon further reflection, though, I think the framework presented by the author is a very useful pattern for becoming more effective in a leadership role.

The premise of the book is The four P’s: Preparation, Presence, Push and Practice.

Preparation is self explanatory, and is useful for freeing up your mental energy for the next one: presence.

Presence is really about overcoming the incorrect impressions people can have about introverts: not concentrating, sullen, slow thinking; acting out presence involves speaking up sooner than you normally would in a meeting, it involves really focusing on people when you are talking with them. You’re there, you’re engaged, and involved just as much as anyone else.

Push, for me, is perhaps the most notable, it ties back to my earlier observation about experiencing a high degree of inertia when faced with situations like networking evenings. Push is overcoming that inertia through willpower. I make networking a game – I get hold of an attendee list, work out who I need/want to meet, and then set myself the task of ticking those people off the list by having a conversation that we will both remember well enough for me to reference when I follow up with them.

Practice is pretty obvious. I find my career gives me plenty of this, but joining something like toastmasters might be a worthwhile activity. Push and practice go hand-in-hand.

The author presents many examples of how to apply these Four P’s across a range of topics, from public speaking, to managing up, to project management, and several others. Some of these are useful examples, but I felt towards the end that this felt a bit repetitive – the changes from managing or leading teams, to heading up projects, for example, seemed like fairly straight-forward steps, and perhaps the two chapters could have been rolled into one.

All in all, the book was reasonably interesting to me, because the subject matter is relevant to my current circumstances, but out of the books I’ve reviewed so far, if I could only pick one to discuss at a dinner party, this one wouldn’t make the shortlist.

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