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Introverts are ‘routinely passed up’ for promotions—but have 3 traits that can make great leaders, says best-selling author Susan Cain

By | Annika Kim Constantino |

It can be easy to overlook the quiet person in the room. But they may actually harbor qualities that can make them great leaders, according to Susan Cain.

Cain, a best-selling author and one of TED’s most popular speakers, has been discussing how people often misunderstand introverts and the qualities they possess for a decade now. At a “Talks at Google” lecture in 2012, she noted that introverts — who are often boxed into the stereotype of being shy, quiet and reserved —  tend to be viewed as incapable of becoming leaders and inferior to their extroverted counterparts.

“The bias in our culture against introversion is so deep and so profound, and we internalize it at such an early age,” Cain, an introvert herself, said. She added that introverts are “routinely passed up” for leadership positions.

In a 2021 YouGov survey, 52% of Americans said they were more introverted than extroverted, with 12% calling themselves “completely introverted.” The actual definitions of introvert and extrovert differ from the stereotypes: According to Cain, extroverts crave high-stimulation environments, gaining energy from activities like meeting new people or going to parties.

By contrast, Cain said, introverts thrive in quieter and less stimulating environments, like smaller gatherings with close friends — and that shouldn’t disqualify them from leadership opportunities.

Here are three qualities of introverts that Cain believes can make them exceptional leaders:

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