It seems to me that in the US and UK at least we are entering a period which will be dominated by the microphone hoggers. The only person making salient news across the pond is the shy, retiring Donald Trump. Like his hair, he is all over the show. Heaven help us! The actual Presidential election will not take place until 8th November.

And here, with the in/out EU referendum set for 23rd June, we are strapped in for the mercifully shorter but no less enveloping Cameron, Boris, Gove spectacle, starring three actors whose hunger for media interest seems to be borderline obsessive.

Where are the quietly influential when you need them? I distinctly recall that we were championing the rise of such characters only last year. In August The Huffington Post ran an update of a previously published piece entitled 16 Super Successful Introverts. Shuffle forward, obviously, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and JK Rowling and, perhaps less obviously, Emma Watson and Christina Aguilera. Welcome back Audrey Hepburn, Mahatma Gandhi and Abe Lincoln.

A few years earlier, Susan Cain’s book of 2012, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’, had become an international best seller. Hard on its heels, in 2013, there was Jennifer Kahnweiler’s ‘Quiet Influence: The Introvert’s Guide to Making a Difference’.  And, to the specific point that shirking the limelight does not necessarily mark the end of leadership aspirations, 2014 saw the publication of Richard Hytner’s excellent ‘Consiglieri. Leading from the Shadows’. This work examines and celebrates the impact of the so-called No. 2s who, far from being also-rans, are often crucial right-hand men and women in business, politics and many walks of life.

But, has this tide subsided? Jenni Russell’s piece in The Times newspaper on 4th February 2016 would suggest that society’s bias in favour of extrovert behaviour remains unshaken and that introverts continue to be passed over for promotion. “Sloggers of the world throw off your chains”, she exhorts, because “Bosses don’t notice the strong and silent types. It pays to be one of the office jumper-uppers.” Russell cites recent research from Duke University, North Carolina, which demonstrates that in the workplace low key competence fades into the background, unrecognised for its intrinsic value, while showing off, even making a fuss, is rewarded with acclaim and advancement.

I sincerely hope that I am not here illuminating the landing strip for President Trump. As Susan Cain stressed in her 2012 TED Talk: “There is zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas. I mean zero.” America, please take note.

And I do want to add my support for introvert skills (acknowledging that we all have them; there is no such thing as pure introvert or pure extrovert) in my own specialist area of relationship management. Some key strengths of introversion provide ideal traits for establishing and nurturing enduring liaisons, both personally and professionally. For example, introverts are often:

  • excellent rapport builders, preferring deeper understanding to a broader, more superficial acquaintance
  • great listeners, less inclined to mic grabbing interruption
  • keenly self-aware, able to make the other parties to a relationship feel more secure
  • powerfully reflective, offering a constantly updating mash up of thoughts and connections
  • adept at subjugating their egos, when there is a shared purpose to pursue in partnership

These are propitious times for such talents. Corporate structures are flattening out making room for smart people who are less hierarchically minded. Globalisation and the increase in digital communication play to introverts’ imaginative, well prepared use of social media. And, in a highly competitive environment, despite Jenni Russell’s fears, it really is dangerously passé, all other things being equal, blindly to fall for extrovert self-promotion over what a bright, industrious introvert can deliver.

Strong relationships continue to be the foundation stones of business success. To make the most of them, it is time to release your inner introvert and ensure that your teams contain their fair share of the introverted. That’s estimated to be between a third and half of the population, in case you were wondering!