by Segan Helle
“The wall will go up and Mexico will start behaving.” “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, OK, I hate to tell you.” “All the women on The Apprentice flirted with me — consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.” Whether or not you agree with Donald Trump’s opinions, there are two things about him that are undeniable.
The first, is that he is entertaining. Trump has turned the presidential elections on its head, reawakening a public interest in politics that has been previously dormant, with people from all over beginning to read up about what kooky, off-the-wall, or downright frightening idea he is ready to say next. The second undeniability is that he is loud. If there is anything that the success of Donald Trump in the presidential elections, and the general conduct of all the front-running presidential candidates proves, it is that America has an infatuation with loud leaders.
It is inherent in our media: reporters and writers clamoring over each other for the better story, for the starker opinion, for the more consumable work about the brashest public figure. It is in our politicians: yelling over each other in debates, cutting each other off mid-sentence, drowning each other out in the noise. It has infected our own discourse: fellow citizens talking at each other rather than to each other, by reciting rehearsed two-way monologues about their latest unpopular political opinion or their most recent reason to hate this guy and love that one. However, while loudness is not inherently a bad thing, a problem arises when what is lost in the clamor of our voices, is other people’s ability to hear them.
There is a common assumption that positions of leadership are reserved for extroverts, or people who are traditionally outgoing. Research published by Psychology Today found that even though only 50 percent of the western population are extroverts, extroverts make over 96 percent of managers and executives. The belief that our outspoken counterparts are better leaders comes from what psychologists have dubbed the “halo effect,” or the view that charisma and perceived dominance make people appear more adept at being in charge, regardless of their real credentials.
This “alpha” leader mentality has been an inherent part of civilized nature since ancient times: it’s tempting to want to get behind someone who exudes the feeling that they’re in control. Unfortunately, this stereotype can often hamper actual productivity. Research conducted by the University of North Carolina shows that when extroverted leaders are paired with groups that are known to be more independent, the trait of being an outspoken leader can lead to more conflict.
But still, there remains the idea that those with the most confidence by virtue hold the most strength. This attitude has worked to push more reserved and introverted people out of positions of leadership for decades. Introverts, in comparison to their louder counterparts, are often viewed as unassuming, shy, anxiety-filled, and even at times have modesty confused for weakness. However, it is time we turned the tide on our views on leadership.
Frances Kahnweiler, author of The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Leadership makes the argument that introverts have the same leadership capacity as extroverts, and may even have some specific advantages. Kahnweiler lists introverts inherent abilities to reflect before they respond, focus on depth rather than superficialities, exude calm, and embrace solitude. As Susan Cain, fellow of the Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership found, as the rise of industrialism and media continue to proliferate, a quieter form of leadership becomes more necessary. This is especially important when we are deciding who we choose as our nation’s leaders in the next coming months; the loudest are not always the best.
Studies done by UC Berkeley have found that those with the most confidence, also are prone to make the most mistakes, as they often choose sure-handedly even when limited information is provided, in comparison to their introverted reciprocals who have a greater tendency to question their own decisions. This leads to many leaders taking groups down the wrong path as they make conclusions on political and economic trends prematurely and inaccurately. Introverts, too, have the upperhand when it comes to finding ways to collaborate. Studies by Cain found that introverted leaders are 20 percent more likely than extroverts to listen to a good idea from others, resulting in a 24 percent improvement in results when it comes to business or politics.
So, maybe it is time we pay more attention to the quiet leaders in the US rather than those with simply the loudest voices. In the end, it might do us all more good.