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Introverted Leaders: Three Reasons Larry Page Will Succeed as Google CEO (As Long As He Avoids One Fatal Misstep)

Author: Susan Cain

LarryPage 300x243 Introverted Leaders: Three Reasons Larry Page Will Succeed as Google CEO (As Long As He Avoids One Fatal Misstep)Last week, Google announced that current Google CEO Eric Schmidt will step down, while co-founder Larry Page – who is often described as shy, private, and reserved – will take his place.  Page’s mission: to make the company nimbler, more innovative, and more appealing to creative engineers with breakthrough ideas.

Some have questioned whether the introverted Page is up to the task.  Here are three reasons he’ll succeed (and one piece of unsolicited advice for him):

1. Introverts have recently been shown to be the best leaders for proactive employees – and if any company has proactive employees, it’s Google. Introverts are good at listening, and they aren’t much interested in dominating social situations – so they’re more likely than extroverts to hear and implement other people’s creative ideas. (Extroverts, with their natural ability to inspire, are better at leading more passive workers.)  Read about this groundbreaking research here and here.

2.  Some of the best CEOs have been found to have the following pair of qualities: a quiet and reserved personality coupled with intense passion and will: This describes Page to a T. He’s known to have an insatiable appetite for fast-paced innovation. (Read more about this research here. )

3.  Tech culture values substance over style. Sociability is crucial to career success in some industries – but not in others. Tech ranks at the bottom of the sociability index, according to this study. Engineers would rather hear from a smart person than a charismatic one.

And now for that fatal misstep: Page shouldn’t try to play the role of salesman-in-chief, or manager of internal politics.  As CEO, he’ll have to do some of this, but he should not create expectations either in himself or in others that this will be his focus.  He should define what the CEO role is going to look like, Larry Page style, instead of letting others do so for him. So far, the press has suggested that he will need to somehow turn himself into everyone’s idea of a showman CEO.  This is not going to happen, and if Page allows people to think it will, he’s setting himself up to fail.

Instead, Page should share the job of chief communicator with those who are better suited to it (as introverted Mark Zuckerberg does with extroverted Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook – hat tip to Jennifer Kahnweiler for alerting me to their partnership.)

Page’s job should be to materialize the dream-like notion of what Google and its brilliant workforce can be: map-makers of the future, bright minds allowed to roam free and high.

For this he is perfectly suited.

6 Comments

  1. Why Is Larry Page Replacing Eric Schmidt? « Fadi El-Eter on 24.01.2011 at 11:43

    [...] his responsibilities, and he doesn’t need to be replaced by a younger man, who is clearly an introvert. Now I have nothing against introverts, they’re great a producing things, but they’re [...]

  2. Jennifer Kahnweiler on 25.01.2011 at 22:41 (Reply)

    Great post, Susan. From what I have read, many biz and tech pros believe in Larry Page’s chances of success. He has matured over the last ten years and also possesses business acumen. He seems poised to take Google into the future. I agree that, like Mark Zuckerberg, Page will benefit from a team that is made of some extroverts.

    I am sure you and and I will be watching closely!

  3. Tweets that mention Introverted Leaders: Three Reasons Larry Page Will Succeed as Google CEO (As Long As He Avoids One Fatal Misstep) -- Topsy.com on 26.01.2011 at 01:04

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tracy Smith, Jennifer Kahnweiler. Jennifer Kahnweiler said: http://tinyurl.com/49bj6m9 Will Larry Page be successful as an introverted leader ? @Susan Cain [...]

  4. Christy on 28.01.2011 at 15:18 (Reply)

    Fascinating to learn about that research on the kinds of people introverts and extraverts are best at leading.

    (Your two links under #1 are incorrect and don’t lead anywhere.)

  5. Susan on 28.01.2011 at 17:21 (Reply)

    Thanks for the heads up, Christy…the links should be working now.

  6. [...] were introverted, the idea that quiet people can’t make good leaders is sheer nonsense. Recent research documents the strengths that introverts bring to leadership — and the limits of charisma. (I’ll post more about this research in [...]

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"Mark my words, this book will be a bestseller."
- Guy Kawasaki on QUIET, forthcoming from Crown Publishers in 2012

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about the author
Susan Cain is the author of the forthcoming book, "QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" (Crown in the U.S., Viking/Penguin in the U.K., 2012). She lives on the banks of the Hudson River in an 1822 captain's cottage with her beloved husband, sons, and magnolia trees. Read More.
twelve things I believe

1. There's a word for "people who are in their heads too much”: thinkers.

2. Lovingkindness is essential, gregariousness is optional.

3. Introverts in 2010 are where women were circa 1963, when Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique. Women’s status has changed radically since then, and so will that of quiet, sensitive, cerebral types in the decades to come.

4. The democratization and fragmentation of media play to introverts’ strengths. Influence no longer depends on commanding the masses or controlling the levers to power. Now it’s enough to speak authentically. If even a tiny fraction of people hear you, that’s still a lot of humans.

5. Texting is popular because in an overly extroverted society, everyone craves asynchronyous, non-F2F communication.

6. We teach kids in group classrooms not because this is the best way to learn but because it’s cost-efficient, and what else would we do with the children while all the grown-ups are at work? If your child prefers to work autonomously and socialize one-on-one, there’s nothing wrong with her; she just happens not to fit the model.

7. The secret to finding work you love is to choose a profession that’s consonant with your personality.

8. The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting. For some it’s a Broadway spotlight or a sun-drenched beach. For others, a lamplit desk.

9. Rule of thumb for networking events: one new honest-to-goodness relationship is worth ten fistfuls of business cards.

10. The world needs both risk-takers and care-takers, but we need our care-takers more than ever.

11. The universal longing for heaven is not about immortality so much as the wish for a world in which everyone is always kind.

12. “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” – Gandhi