for many years, i led my own high-level executive search practice and have recruited more than one hundred ceos in almost every industry in both the public and private sector. i also sold the business to one of the world's top international search firms, and later bought it back so i have a global perspective on how leaders (or at least the so-called "cream" of them) are selected. i now do mostly board performance evaluation consulting and a little bit of career counselling.
about twenty years ago, i started using various psychologists to help my board clients assess candidates, and gradually became familiar with the MBTI. about ten years ago, i commented to dr larry cash that i thought the recruiting process tended to skew in favor of people who "presented well". larry had developed a very complex tool called the Pathfinder which i used for many years, and larry agreed with me that this was a serious problem and in his opinion accounted for why so many incompetents were in very senior leadership roles. this led me into a rather long journey to look at why clients said we were different from other recruiters. i finally realized that i was myself a major introvert, although i had learned the skills necessary to function in an extrovert world. i also realized that many of the best leaders i had seen and recruited were, in fact, introverts who had leanred to "pass' by displaying extrovert-friendly behavious, although most of them would not have described it that way. i think my own analytical orientation plus my ability to identify and bring forward candidates who were not the always the obvious ones accounted for clients coming to us over many of our competitors. Anyway, until i read your book, i had only seen one person (dr barbara killinger, author of Workaholics The Respectable Addicts) clearly show me the import of the I/E issue. I had read her book, and had consulted her regarding some personal issues; using MBTI and her counselling skills, she showed me why my partner and i were having such communication difficulties. i am a WASP and he was a latino from the netherlands antilles, i am an I(very high) N (highest on scale) F (high) P (highest on scale) and he was almost the same on the scales as an ESFJ. Combined with our age and cultural difference, it was amazing that we communicated at all. What i particularly liked about your book is that it deals clearly with the import of the I/E difference, which from my own personal and business experience seems to be the most powerful value of the MBTI if not taken too much in isolation. Very few people (including a lot of people I have talked to who are licensed to use MBTI) do not really seem to grasp the implications of this. Even with my level of knowledge about introverts, which is probably higher than most people's, i still found it a relief to read your book. although lots of it is very funny, in fact when i think about the implications particularly for children, it is really quite disturbing to think how large a percentage of the population is probably misjudged because of the way our mainstream schooling is set up. when i was a kid, for example, my mother (who i have realized was a very high ES and a strictly linear thinker and very socially convential) used to drive me insane by forcing me to do structured studying for tests and exams when in fact i should have been let alone since I had my own way of apprehending everything that worked much better when i followed it. when i was 25 (having escaped from home!) i went to university and completed a law degree, i did most of my studying by sitting down the day before exams and reading all my class notes and then just reading through the material for 24 hours non-stop. for me, it worked.
One of my particular concerns today is that many people in leadership roles, particularly on boards and governing bodies as well as senior executive positions, do not realize that they are "talking to themselves" because they are surrounded by people with the same viewpoints and patterns as their own. i also think that many people who would be very good leaders have tended to exit the system in large organizations because they simply can't be bothered trying to be someone they are not.
my vantage point is rather unusual, perhaps, since i have been in and out of so many boardrooms listened to boards and ceos talk about why someone is good or not good, plus i have the intellectual and substantive knowledge to be skeptically observing what i am hearing. i think we are really in the era of the "quick solution from the best sound bite" whereas we might do better with more of the ideas from, for example the quaker "sense of the meeting" or some of the aboriginal cultural approaches. i also have been very involved in the servant-leadership movement, which seems to be populated by a high percentage of introverts.
i wonder if any research has been done on this issue around potential cultural and systemic biases for promoting people in organizations (i can only speak for mainstream canada and the US) since I am sure that many of the strengths introverts have would make a significant improvement in governance and leadership of organizations.
is anyone interested in the possibility of some kind of network of Introverted Leaders?