First there was Character. Then came Personality. And if you wanted to get ahead you had to be 'out there'. Extroverts ruled. Never mind the quality of my ideas, just listen to me talk.
Susan Cain turned her back on a high-powered legal career to write this study of the power of introverts. It struck her that introverts were being unduly passed over, their talents and abilities failing to be recognised as noisier types grabbed all the attention. She likens this to a diversity issue: a waste of talent, energy and creativity, overlooked because able but introverted people are not being noticed.
'Charismatic' leaders may command higher salaries but do not necessarily achieve better results, Cain argues. Indeed, given the economy's shift to more 'geeky', high-tech and analytical activities, arguably it is to introverts we should be looking for deep, value-added insights. Forget the brash, red-braces wearing loudmouth who likes to call the shots. Pay more attention to the hushed efficiency of that reserved person in the corner.
Cain does not say it is time to banish extroverts from the workplace. But she does say that a better balance between personality types is likely to help build a more productive team. 'Everyone shines, given the right lighting,' Cain says. 'For some it's a Broadway spotlight; for others, a lamplit desk.' It's the quiet ones you have to watch out for. They might be about to come up with a blockbuster idea.
The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain was published by Penguin in 2013.
Stefan Stern is visiting professor at Cass Business School. Follow him on Twitter: @StefanStern
Image credit: Brian Tomlinson/Flickr