Is Introverted Leadership the Secret to Huffpo’s Success?


In the wake of this week’s announcement that AOL will buy the Huffington Post for $315 million, the New York Times ran a cover story on the dynamic duo behind Huffpo’s success. It was called “Big Personality and Behind-the-Scenes Executive Prove a Top Team.”

You know who the big personality is: Arianna Huffington – she of the high-wattage political career, and bulging Rolodex of bold-faced names.

But the other half of the Huffpo duo is unknown outside of media circles. His name is Kenneth Lerer, and he’s a quietly sophisticated strategist who likes to stick to himself. Lerer is widely respected as a media-savvy guru who knows how to build powerful brands. According to the Times, Huffpo “never would have merited a $315 million payday” if not for him.

Or, more precisely, if not for the balance between the two. Tom Freston, the former head of Viacom, told the Times that Huffington’s and Lerer’s  “opposite personalities – she gregarious, effusive and innately social; he reserved, private and cerebral – complemented each other. ‘They’re a perfect match. In a way you couldn’t get a better front man than Arianna…she’s externally driven, she’s very visible…And Kenny, he was a very, very smart, adept adviser. He’s a low-key guy and a real sage. Kenny in his low-key way and Arianna in her out-front way moved this thing from level to level seamlessly.”

That perfectly balanced partnership created a website that attracts some 30 million people a month, according to Quantcast.

Huffington knows everyone and charms them all. She is the public face of the Huffington Post. But low-key Lerer was the one who knew how to turn all that glitter into gold.


I love to collect examples of yin-yang partnerships, like this one between Huffington and Lerer.  It helps to build the case that organizations should be grooming introverts for leadership roles (which they currently fail to do, according to management research.)

What do you think — have you ever seen these kinds of introvert-extrovert pairings up close and personal? Or are there other examples you’ve admired from afar?



  1. Bill C. on 11.02.2011 at 16:50 (Reply)

    Do Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock count? Granted, they’re fictional, but they’re the perfect example of an extrovert/introvert management duo.

  2. Christy on 11.02.2011 at 20:45 (Reply)

    Ha! I was just going to say Kirk and Spock! Well done, Bill C.

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