Design Leadership for Introverts

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How introverted designers and design leaders can operate successfully in a world where the extrovert ideal is desired.

Introduction

In Susan Cain’s 2012 Ted Talk, “The Power of Introverts,” she said that we live in a world where the extrovert ideal is desired. As a leader in design, this certainly feels true for me.

When people paint a picture of what a leader looks like, it often looks like this: A leader commands the center of attention. A leader is outgoing, talkative, and dominant. A leader is able to deliver charismatic speeches, rallying large audiences at a drop of a hat. A leader is the ultimate salesman; people hang onto their every word, waiting for their next one with bated breath.

A leader is, in essence, an extrovert. I’m not saying this is a BAD way to lead. I’m saying this is not the ONLY way to lead, and certainly not all the time.

Which begs the question: If we can accept that the world desires extroverts, how can we as introverted designers and design leaders operate successfully within it?

For years, I’ve grappled with my introversion and my desire to lead and thought the solution was an obvious one: Be more extroverted. Yet, every time I tried, it always felt unnatural; I was forcing myself to be someone I was not.

Little did I realize that all this time, the little workarounds, my ways of working I’ve used to achieve the desired outcome my way, were techniques that harnessed my introverted gifts. I was using my introverted ways as a superpower. Continue reading Design Leadership for Introverts