Must you be an extrovert to lead? Experts at Kenan-Flagler Business School I’ve buttonholed say no. Some leaders excel at relationship building and charisma. Others lead with their analytical abilities and strategic thinking. Still others attract a following through their insights, innovation and entrepreneurship. You’ll find introverts in all three groups.
Politicians, on the other hand, have to excel at putting on a show, projecting their personality, feeling at home in the spotlight. Those skills can be learned, but in general, an introverted politician is an exhausted politician.
Leadership differs from showmanship. The opportunity for council members to appoint someone to join their ranks enables them to choose a voice that might be overlooked by voters used to being entertained. To make decisions in the best interests of the town as a whole requires council members to be cognizant of a wide range of viewpoints.
Watching the short presentations by the 11 applicants for the council seat, it was clear not all of them were comfortable with self-promotion, much less being judged on live TV. But in almost all of them, I heard a voice capable of bringing a new perspective to discussions. I saw the courage to espouse viewpoints sitting council members disagreed with.
When Toyota created the Prius, it bypassed established executives in the engineering division to head the project and brought in a young executive from a completely different arm who would not be biased by “we’ve always done it this way.” When Donna Bell was appointed to the Strom seat in 2009, her questions and votes occasionally surprised people, including Mark Kleinschmidt, who maybe was expecting his former campaign worker to blindly follow his lead.
Sally Greene, the only applicant to push beyond the allotted four minutes for her presentation last Monday night, said she had the confidence of voters. But so might many of the other applicants, if it were put to a vote. (Only one other applicant has run for office: Carl Schuler, a thoughtful, insightful man lacking in flamboyance.) Bell did not have the support of voters when she was appointed, but by the time the next election rolled around, she had earned it. Several of the applicants appear to have similar potential.
Council doesn’t need any more big personalities, bullies or belittlers. Council would do well to swell its ranks with someone who brings an open mind, insightful questions and a fresh perspective to discussions. The extroverts can have their turn in November.
– Nancy Oates