Outgoing to be incoming?

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

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2 Comments

  1. Mark Marcoplos

     /  January 21, 2013

    Nancy,

    As a veteran reporter, concerned citizen, and someone who has followed the latest group of applicants, who would you recommend?

    Thanks,
    Mark

  2. Nancy

     /  January 21, 2013

    Several of them have attributes that would serve the town well. I’m most interested in someone who would ask some questions to get council thinking outside the “we’ve always done it this way” mindset. A couple council members have said, “We have to have someone experienced with the budget process.” Why? Each of the eight sitting council members has been through the budget process at least once. If a new voice comes up with some new ideas council doesn’t like, those eight old voices can shout ’em down. Some applicants have had more experience than others serving on boards and know the town process inside and out. Some of those without advisory board experience seem accomplished, smart and well-spoken and could bring up things sitting members might not have thought about. This is an appointment for a matter of months. If a new voice isn’t a good fit, Sally Greene can run in November and the “confidence of voters” presumably would elect her then.

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