What quiet leaders bring to nonprofit boards and organizations…

I’ve been enjoying “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain. Though I am an introvert, the book isn’t for introverts alone.  There are some interesting reflections for nonprofit organizations considering questions of board/organizational leadership, board engagement, and board recruiting. Here are a few:

On Board/Organizational Leadership: Cain writes that some of the most effective leaders of organizations are introverts.  She quotes Jim Collins who said “We don’t need giant personalities to transform companies.  We need leaders who build not their own egos but the institutions they run.” An introverted leader is more likely to listen to the ideas of others, making it more likely that good ideas will bubble up to improve the organization overall.

On Board Engagement: Groupthink is a major concern for boards that may realize there is little dissention or true discussion at board meetings. Cain cites research in support of this concern. She writes: “Peer pressure, in other words, is not only unpleasant, but can actually change your view of a problem. These early findings suggest that groups are like mind-altering substances. If the group thinks the answer is A, you’re much more likely to believe A is correct, too.” Cain suggests that we should find multiple ways to engage people and elicit ideas and information from them in settings where group dynamics don’t always rule.

On Board Recruitment: Cain’s research seems to suggest that nonprofit organizations should be sure to recruit introverted board members.  She writes: “Make the most of introverts’ strengths – these are the people who can help you think deeply, strategize, solve complex problems, and spot canaries in your coal mine.” So, while they may not be the most gregarious or likely to work the room at a fundraising event, there are many strategic advantages to having introverts on the board.


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