You Never Know

Last week, I took my 13 year old son and some friends to a paintball field. We had never been before. As we drove out, we shared about how some of us were a little nervous, but the overall emotion was excited anticipation. Like race horses trembling before the gate opens, we were ready to rock.

The way it works, they put everyone who happens to be there at the same time into a big group until there are about thirty people. Then they split you into teams and a referee establishes what game you are going to play and enforces rules. The games were basic — capture the flag, shoot everyone until there is no one left standing, defend the fort.

I imagine we all had similar inner fantasies on the way out. My son plays a lot of first-person shooter games on Xbox with his friends, and I am into them a bit too. So we were pretty much all imagining ourselves as awesome little soldier-dudes.

The reality slapped me in the face immediately. We got split up into teams and the game began. I snuck through the woods, my sights on this enemy fellow crouching behind a tree. I popped out from behind my tree to shoot. The moment I revealed myself, I got hit. Game over. I was the first casualty.

What’s worse, as I walked back to the staging area where the dead people wait, I realized I had no clue where the shot that did me in had come from. None.

The game finally ended, and we were briefed on the next game. We basically switched sides, with one team uphill and the other downhill. The ref called “go.” We started playing. I snuck forward toward a woodpile. This time I would be cagey, and be a bit more careful of my surroundings.

Again, I got shot quickly. Again, I had no idea where it came from.

Over the course of the day, I improved and I stopped being the first to go. But one element was constant: I never knew where the shot that took me out came from.

This morning, as I was talking to friends about life in general, I realized that my paintball excursion (which I enjoyed immensely and which I plan to repeat) taught me a very important lesson:

You never know what direction challenges will come from.

In most cases out on the paintball field, there was some threat (or target) I was focusing on, and the killer shot came from some other place. I was totally blindsided. Over and over.

Try as we might to prepare, the unexpected will present itself to us, and we will have to deal with it. On the paintball field, it means a walk back to the staging area. In life, it means a chance to respond with grace to something new.

The quality I need to cultivate in myself is not so much strength to withstand an onslaught, or even a more sensitive internal radar. Because there is always a better shot, and the paintball with my name on it will always come from where I am not looking.

No, the quality I need to cultivate is grace in response.

That is what is going to serve me best, as life continues to present surprises.

Thoughts For When Things Are Tough

In The Weeds

Like anyone, I’ve had my share of ups and downs. The downs always seem especially dire. When you’re in the weeds, it can seem like there’s no way out. Like you’re stuck there for good.

Here are two things I have learned to do during those times. I do not always practice this very well, but it’s what I aspire to do.

I try to both expand and shrink my world.

Expand My World

So often, things seem tough because I have let my world appear to shrink in around me. A colleague is acting abrasively — and I respond as if the only people in the world are me and that person. Money is tight — and I act as if there is nothing in my life to be grateful for anywhere. I lose a potential project — and behave as if there are no other prospects on this, or any, horizon.

In each case, I am artificially limiting the scope of my world to focus attention on a “problem.”

But the reality of my world is so much greater than that. I have a professional life and a personal life and more possible clients on the horizon and things to care about besides money and and and and.

If I can let myself see that the problem area — even if it is an important, big, hairy problem area — is just a limited part of my overall life, suddenly the tough time seems a little manageable. Sure, I lost a potential project — but I have others to work on, or pursue.

Here’s a small way it manifests for me. When I have a speech to give, I tend to get very nervous. My urge is to prepare. To overprepare, in fact. If I am sitting on a panel on Wednesday, for instance, I might clear the decks of everything for Monday and Tuesday. Because I want to focus in on “preparing.” The reality is that I have other things I need to be doing on Monday and Tuesday, and there is only so much preparing you can do anyway.

Shrink My Timeline

On the other side of the coin, when I am having a tough time (especially when it comes to money or my professional life), I can let my mind run ahead of itself. I start to project into the future and think about all the terrible things that are going to happen (which, in reality, or most likely things that may happen).

But, my experience tells me that I have never not been OK, when all is said and done. And, more importantly, in this moment now, I am more than likely OK. I have a place to stay. I have some food. I have enough money to make it through the day. Some people have very extreme problems and this aspect may not apply fully. But, for most people that I know, even ones who have lost everything, there is almost always some way that they were OK in the moment. The trick is not to obsess about the future’s problems, but live life today.

This is not to say I should ignore very real problems, just not let them take over.

Bottom line:

  • My world is much larger than my problems, and
  • My problems are much smaller when considered in the light of just one moment.

(I learned both of these things from other people and they only began to sink in after some difficult experiences. I can’t take any credit for them.)

Choosing "Yes"

Friends know that I have recently been bitten (more than a little) by the yoga bug. I thank my wife, Andrea Jarrell, for her years-long example — and P90X for getting me started.

After doing yoga once a week as a part of my P90X routine (which I completed in late Spring), I found that I wanted to continue. I was looking for something that was similar to the “power yoga” in P90X. I had begun doing Bikram Yoga with my wife (who is a rockstar) but I had gotten it set in my head I wanted a something else too (I still practice Bikram with Andrea at least once per week). So, in May this year, I discovered Down Dog Yoga Studio, which is rooted in the form of yoga practiced and taught by Baron Baptiste. (P90X is based on Baptiste too.)

But, this essay is not about yoga. It’s about choices.

Patty Ivey (photo borrowed from Facebook)

I read an article about Down Dog Yoga founder Patty Ivey by Austin Yoder. It’s an entrepreneurial profile of Patty, and it contains this passage:

Patty Ivey started Down Dog Yoga in the April of 2003. She started the business with a business partner who was focused and experienced with Yoga. She was a runner and didn’t practice Yoga as a form of exercise. She was asked to help because she had business experience.

At some point, Patty’s business partner decided she was not cut out for business, moved to the west coast and left her with the company. She hadn’t come up with the idea, wasn’t a Yoga teacher and found her self in a situation she didn’t know much about.

To make sure the business continued to operate and pay the employees, Patty did what was necessary. She took over the business by putting “her nose to the grindstone” and decided to start an intensive journey of her own yoga studies.

I found that fascinating. As I have been becoming a member of the Down Dog community, I’ve come to see a sort of myth surrounding Patty. Her classes are very challenging and she has what seems an encyclopedic knowledge of yoga. She has a background as a runner, so she speaks insightfully about some of the considerations yogis who also exercise in other ways ought to keep in mind.

I had assumed that Patty had, like many, discovered yoga at some point and saw the benefits — and that this discovery was voluntary. But, if the article is correct, that’s not how it happened.

She was invited to be a part of a new business venture and agreed. The founder left. Patty then had a decision to make — carry on or fold up shop? She chose to move ahead, because she knew how to run a business, not because she had always wanted to run a yoga studio.

This was a conscious choice, yes, but it is not one she necessarily wanted to make. So, on one level, she was “pushed” into yoga.

However, that’s not the real choice she made. She could have just plowed ahead, just focusing on the business aspects and finding someone else who knew the yoga-teacher stuff . . . but instead she decided to go all-in when it comes to yoga. She committed to learning it, and as she did, it infused the business itself.

I recognize that I am reading a great deal into someone’s life based just on a blog post. So the reality of how it unfolded may be different than my description. But the point I am trying to make, I believe, is valid. It’s this:

Sometimes things over which we have no control throw us a curve. We have a choice about how we respond — we can accept the reality and work with it, or we can fight to change it. The thing is, we never know what the outcome will be.

And . . . that outcome is often remarkable.

Next time I get a curve ball, I plan on trying my best to say “yes.”

Renaming An Organization

My good friend Hildy Gottlieb, author of the very important Polyanna Principles, is in the midst of choosing a new name for her organization, the Community-Driven Institute.

She has written a very interesting and transparent article about that process, and has thrown a few ideas out there for people to react to.

The Vision Words

I love this photo of Hildy Gottlieb
I love this photo of Hildy Gottlieb

So far, the advice she’s been given by a number of colleagues is for the organization to ask itself a number of vision-type questions: What change are you creating? What do you do? What does it look like?

So far, Hildy and her colleagues have settled on a general sense that the CDI is about “LEAPING from dreams to reality” and “That creating . . . dramatic social change is just taken for granted to be the expectation that guides our work.”

Having led a number of strategic planning and visioning efforts, these are important questions. However, they are not at all enough. It is a very short hop from “vision” questions to a boring, me-too kind of name that fades into the generalized social-sector obscurity that is filled with this Institute or that Center or some other Initiative.

Just think how many organizations could easily be named something like the “Community Change Institute.”

No, we’ve got to go beyond, and get underneath, all that mission-speak. When it comes to the name of the organization, it must be informed by — but does not necessarily have to include — the vision words.

The Searchability Imperative

There’s another organizational imperative: searchability. This is too often overlooked, but in the world of pervasive search it is critical. Organizations are well advised to consider a one- or two-word name that is unique. Invented, in fact. You don’t want to name your organization that is related to a generic search phrase. When someone searches on your name, you don’t want other results cluttering up the first page of hits.

I have in mind two renamings that I think hit the mark.

Playworks
Playworks

The first is my friend Jill Vialet’s organization. It’s now called Playworks, which I think is an awesome name. It used to be called Sports4Kids, which has the advantage of being unique but was a little dated with that number in the middle and also was not quite correct (her organization is about play, not just sports). And the tagline, “Education Energized” does a great job of following up and giving people the general direction that the organization goes in.

But . . . and this is important . . . the name does not rigidly adhere to mission-words. Here is Playworks’ mission: “To improve the health and well-being of children by increasing opportunities for physical activity and safe, meaningful play.” See? It’s not the Institute for Safe, Meaningful Play, nor is it the Center For Education Through Play. “Playworks” is memorable, one word, searchable, and awesome.

(Also, don’t get me started on how incredible the curly-human logo is.)

The second good renaming happened more than a decade ago (I don’t have the exact year). The National Center for Nonprofit Boards renamed itself BoardSource. Again, a manufactured name, that does a great job of conveying the purpose of the organization (Mission: “Dedicated to advancing the public good by building exceptional nonprofit boards and inspiring board service.”) At the time, the name rankled but that was because I was old-fashioned. I’ve come around, and now I think the organization was forward-thinking when it went with the one-word name.

BoardSource. Yep, that explains what it is pretty well.

The Hard Work

So that leaves us with the hard work of translating mission and vision words and phrases into a name. That takes creativity, long walks, late-night discussions, and epiphanies in the shower. But — this is important — it’s important to keep a high bar here. It can’t be rushed.

It’s also important to make sure to get out of your own echo chamber. It’s easy to think a word is working, when it is not. For instance, there is a highly respected organization that works on a number of progressive issues related to democracy. It’s called Demos. To some this is an apt name, but to my mind it is too hifalutin. If you don’t know what the Greek word “demos” means, you really don’t have a clue what the organization is about.

I don’t know what Hildy’s new name should be. That word “leap” has some potential. “CommunityLeap” is a possibility, but I am afraid it is too much of a mouthful. Plus, one of her key audiences is nonprofit consultants, and the name doesn’t convey that sense.

Hildy has been toying with the word “leapfrog” and there is some potential there, too. Although one commenter (I think rightly) said she wasn’t too thrilled by the word “frog.”

I also wonder if Hildy wants to get the word “Polyanna” activated somehow, since her Polyanna Principles are a linchpin of how she works.

As I think of things, I may chronicle them here in the comments — but if you have some ideas, or other thoughts, please add them below! Especially if you think I am all wet.

(By the way, that Amazon link to Polyanna Principles up top is an affiliate link, I could not resist.)

Learning From Personal Failures

My dear friend Jim Clinton, who is CEO of the Cenla Advantage Partnership, wrote a stirring piece today that I wanted to share with you. (In case you are among the uninitiated, “Cenla” is Central Louisiana.)

He writes, in part:

A few minutes ago, I heard a cry, close to a scream. It was repeated and repeated again. Couldn’t tell if it was a child or a cat, but I don’t hear many cries from either here on the second floor of The Rapides Foundation Building. I went to my window overlooking Johnston Street. I was just in time to see a woman walking with two boys, ages approximately two and four. She was holding the smaller child’s hand and I watched, she hit him hard in the face. A couple more steps and she hit him again. Three more steps and a repeat. I don’t know how many hits preceded this.

How do I work this?” I thought, referring to my conscience, my responsibility to civilization, etc. I shook off the cobwebs, ran down the stairs and into the street. I followed the threesome at some distance on Johnston towards the river. They boarded a shuttle and vanished.

Jim follows this with a meditation on his own relationship to spanking as a parent of grown children, who now has a later-in-life child to rear. He gives a wonderful explanation of how, and why, his views have evolved. I urge you to read it.

But it was the wrenching scene out his window that struck me to the bone. I know that feeling — knowing you need to do something, not sure you can, hesitating, and finally sometimes sadly missing out on the opportunity as it vanishes. How many times have we faced such a thing, and then recalled and relived the event, only this time with faster reflexes, or with surer voice? How many times do we replay what we wish we had said?

For me, the episode that stands out is a time long ago when I was in a position to hire someone. A superior convinced me to avoid the person I thought the best candidate because of something  benign that came up in the applicant’s background during the interview process.

Fearful of making waves, I did not stick to my guns. I offered someone else the job, and they did great. But I lacked courage. This was a weak decision that haunts me even now — from which I try to learn daily and draw strength from. I hope never again to stay silent as I did.

I want to thank my friend Jim for reopening this doorway and spurring me to reflect on this episode, and allowing me to renew this intention.

The Ethics Of Coming Clean

Visiting from Gawker’s Valleywag? Welcome! Please consider signing up for my occasional (free) email.


If you’re not in the tech world, you probably have never heard of the Silicon Valley blog called TechCrunch. This is a widely-read and frequently-updated blog on happenings throughout the tech world. It is among the handful of top news sources for the tech world.

Bear with me as I set up a scenario. The details are important.

About a month ago, the site’s founder, Michael Arrington, wrote “An Apology To Our Readers” in which he said:

I received a phone call from someone I trust who told me that one of our interns had asked for compensation in exchange for a blog post. Specifically, this intern had allegedly asked for a Macbook Air in exchange for a post about a startup

After an investigation we determined that the allegation was true. In fact, on at least one other occasion this intern was almost certainly given a computer in exchange for a post.

The intern in question has admitted to some of the allegations, and has denied others. We suspended this person while we were sorting through exactly what happened. When it became clear yesterday that there was no question that this person had requested, and in one case taken, compensation for a post, the intern was terminated.

Arrington went on to delete all posts that had been written by the intern. Since the intern was underage, his name was originally withheld.

Daniel Brusilovsky by Flickr user magerleague
Daniel Brusilovsky by Flickr user magerleague

Later, though, the intern came clean in both a blog post and an interview with the startup-focused blog Mixergy. His name is Daniel Brusilovsky and he’s a 17 year old senior.

Here’s what he told Mixergy:

There is supposedly a company I was meeting with who offered me a MacBook Air in exchange for a post. That got escalated to TechCrunch and TechCruch wrote a post about it and terminated my employment with them.

Brusilovsky is in the news again, one month after the incident came to light, because another character has stepped forward — a business owner who says he was the one shaken down for a story.

Sam Odio, who is CEO of a tech startup called Divvyshot (and who is as far out of the Valley as you can imagine — in Charlottesville, VA [UPDATE — that’s ’cause he’s at school at UVA, according to his web contact details]), has written in his own blog that, “Daniel Brusilovsky recently asked the founder of a startup for a Macbook Air and offered coverage in exchange. That founder was me, the CEO of Divvyshot. I came forward to Mike at TechCrunch.”

For a long time, Odio had remained silent. According to him, he was initially shaken down evidently sometime in December 2009:

Daniel came to me about Air while writing this article. He wrote the article in “real time” while interviewing me. It was in this context that he told me a friend of mine (a guy I went to college with) bought him an iMac in exchange for an article. Daniel told me that the “cover story” for the iMac was that he had received it as a gift for his birthday. I don’t know exactly what their agreement was as I wasn’t there.

Sam Odio, from his blog
Sam Odio, from his blog

When Daniel told me about the iMac, he mentioned that he needed a new laptop and that he would cover Divvyshot’s upcoming announcements in exchange for a new Macbook Air. I was stunned and responded with something like “Haha, we’ll talk about it later.” I hoped the issue would be dropped after that interview but over the coming weeks Daniel continued to bring up the Air.

My reaction was always “we can do this, but not right now.” That was a mistake – I should’ve just said no. Instead it took me over a week of struggling with the issue before coming forward to Mike at TechCrunch.

Some time after coming forward to Arrington (but while he had still not told anyone else), Odio came upon what he saw as a sympathetic piece by prominent tech journalist Jason Calacanis. The piece criticized Brusilovsky’s less than full-throated apology. Odio sent a note to Calacanis saying that he was the one who’d been shaken down.

Calacanis forwarded the email to acerbic commentator Loren Feldman who took the opportunity to exert pressure to get more of the story by Tweeting: “Divvyshot. You have 24 hrs.”

And so Odio wrote his piece on Monday, laying out his role.

I am sharing the details of this story because it is a potentially very, very fruitful study about ethical decision-making. There are right-wrong as well as right-right questions all over the place:

  • Brusilovsky: The way he tells it, he and Odio were sort of joking over IM and the language could have been construed as a shake down. (He’s also said Odio was the one who initiated the exchange.) If the “joking around” story is true, at what point do you put a stop to such conversation and inform your superiors?
  • Odio: His start up could be made or broken (or so he thought) by a story in TechCrunch. How do you have the courage to say “no” when it is necessary (instead of a week later)?
  • Arrington: Confronted with the evidence, but faced with denial, how do you respond? Do you divulge who is involved? How about the companies involved?
  • Calacanis: You are a high-profile person who gets an email out of the blue. What obligation do you have over whether you divulge it or not? And to whom?
  • Feldman: You care deeply about transparency. Where do you draw the line over who you “out?” Or is that even a relevant question?

My own take is that Brusilovsky was in the wrong, and I find his explanation of the story hard to swallow. But he is also a young person. While he should know better, he may not have developed his moral compass fully yet — so, while his punishment seems right, the court of public opinion might do well to give him a second chance. Don’t hate on him too hard, in other words.

But, in the chain after the initial shakedown, the questions become much more murky and interesting. Each player had a right-versus-right dilemma (as my friend Rush Kidder would say). You can make a case that they did the wrong thing or that they did the right thing.

This is worth studying as a public leader. Often, it is the wrongdoing of others that places us in our own ethical dilemmas.

Toyota Needs Action On Three Levels

My latest article at my blog at the Washington Times Communities, Public Square Today, is now live:

Toyota Needs Action On Three Levels

Last night I gave a talk on ethics and leadership and I based a large section of it on a reading of Akio Toyoda’s Wall Street Journal op-ed piece apologizing for his company’s shortcomings and outlining plans to correct them. Published Tuesday, it is a good example of some of the concerns that face a public leader in trying to craft and lead an organization that not only talks ethics but also acts on its ethics.

'Working on machinery' by Flickr user NIOSH
'Working on machinery' by Flickr user NIOSH

Set aside, just for the moment, any anger you may feel that an op-ed statement is perhaps too little, too late. There are definitely ways in which some may say his statement falls short, as does the fact that he had to almost be shamed into attending congressional hearings on Toyota’s problems. Instead, let’s take his statement at face value, because, by doing so, we can draw lessons from it.

The story of how Toyota responds (is responding) to its catastrophic problems illustrates the three levels on which leadership must work if an organization is to act ethically. I have written about this before — I call it Heart, Head, and Hands. What I mean by that is intention, policy, and execution.

  • Intention: What is my mission and purpose? To what extent is the achievement of my goals more important than how I go about it? (Heart)
  • Policy: Are there systems, structures, and practices in place, and are they sufficient? Do they connect logically with my mission? Can they reasonably be expected to result in the fulfillment of my mission? (Head)
  • Execution: Am I carrying out my plans, in the way I intend? Am I following my own rules? (Hands)

So many organizations focus on the first two, and ignore the third — but that’s where things go wrong. All too often, when a problem comes to light, the organizational response is to create new policies and procedures. But many, many times the problem is that someone did not follow rules. Often, there’s one slip that gets tolerated, and then magnified over time. A leader needs to keep their eye firmly on all three levels.

Toyoda’s op-ed is remarkable because he admits that it is at the level of execution that things broke down, and he sees execution as the critical component in correcting the problems.

Sure, he points out that Toyota’s heart is in the right place, as he refers to the “Toyota Way.” And in multiple passages, he outlines specific plans about how he will be correcting the safety problems that are coming to light. That is, he’s got his head in order.

But he also talks about the hands. He admits that it wasn’t a matter of having wrong policies — but that Toyota did not execute its own plans properly. “I recognize that we must do better — much better — in responding to safety issues,” he writes. Elsewhere, he admits, “we didn’t listen as carefully as we should — or respond as quickly as we must” to problems. And, “we focused too narrowly on technical issues.”

That’s looking backwards. Looking forward, Toyoda writes:

I pledge that Toyota will set a new standard for transparency and speed of response on safety issues. We also will strive to lead on advanced safety and environmental technologies. And I will continue to personally visit our sales and manufacturing workplaces to reaffirm the Toyota commitment to excellent quality.

Here, too, is a good lesson — a lesson about execution. It takes three things from a leader to really push execution: Commitment to focus on execution over time; Accountability and a willingness to be held responsible for outcomes; and Courage to act on decision. Toyoda’s statements suggest he is thinking about all three factors.

I am not a Toyota owner, but I know many who see the current problems as a blip in an otherwise stellar record. Akio Toyoda’s statements suggest that this can truly be the case — so long as the execution really is there.

Universal Probes For Small Groups

Public leaders often have to lead small group discussions. Here is something that might help.

A lot of my work involves leading conversations. Sometimes that is because I am researching how people perceive an issue. Other times I am leading a session designed to convey content — how to use social media, ethical campaigning, public leadership.

I am preparing for a four-day candidate training seminar that is an initiative of the University of Virginia’s Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership. I’ve been part of this from the beginning, and it is one of the most rewarding things that I do. (Sorensen’s ethics-based candidate training course is the national model for such things and is highly effective.)

Part of the course involves small group discussions, and as we were preparing the agendas for those, I was erminded of a set of “universal probes” that I have been using for years. These are highly useful questions to ask as a follow up (after almost any initial question) and they typically unlock conversation and allow people to think quite deeply about the issue at hand. They are deceptively simple.

I did not come up with these. Chances are, any good focus group moderator will give you the same, or a similar, set. These are just how I articulate them. They arose out of study with one of my mentors, Rich Harwood, and work alongside of two imprtoant colleagues, John Creighton and Dave Moore.

Here are the questions:

  1. What do you mean by that?
  2. Say more about why you think that?
  3. What would that get you?
  4. What would that look like?
  5. And that leads you to think . . . ?

See? Simple. But ask them, and see what they can unlock. You might be surprised.

Where Did I Fail? Tough Questions For Year-End Reflection

I know it’s just another arbitrary day, but I like to begin the new year looking forward. That usually means I spend the waning days of December reviewing things.

Fail by Flickr user Nimbu
"Fail" by Flickr user Nimbu

My tendency is often to gloss over problems and let myself off the hook more than I should, so I like to carve out some time to really ask myself some hard questions — so I can see where I need to grow.

Here are some of the questions I am asking myself this year:

  • What did I fail at? For projects that did not succeed, or are not fulfilling expectations, what part did I play?
  • Where have I made progress? Where have I not made progress?
  • What have I neglected this year?
  • Are my metrics honest? Do they really measure the outcomes and outputs that are important?
  • Where should I have spoken up? Where did I not act when I should have? What should I have done, and when?
  • To whom do I owe amends? Am I willing to make them? If not, why not, and what will I do instead?
  • What hard truths am I avoiding?
  • What grade would I give myself as a leader, as a service provider, as an employee?

Self-assessment doesn’t have to be a negative exercise, but to me it is only worthwhile if I focus on what needs to change and not just pat myself on the back. It helps to have a dedicated time to focus in on the hard stuff so I can enjoy the good stuff with a clean conscience.

What hard questions are you asking yourself?

Let me know in the comments.

It's An Extrovert's World, But Technology Allows Introverts A Toehold

My latest piece is posted at Public Square Today, my blog at Washington Times Communities:

It’s An Extrovert’s World, But Technology Allows Introverts A Toehold

I recently spent time in a group with a public leader who is very clearly an introvert. Whenever it was her turn to speak, she would pause to think about what to say. People would hang on each sentence, waiting to see what was said. It was clearly a struggle for some in the room not to jump in and interrupt.

dave with a megaphone by Flickr user NatalieHG
"dave with a megaphone" by Flickr user NatalieHG

This experience drove home to me the fact that we live in a world organized and run by extroverts. By “extrovert” I mean the term according to the definition used by the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, a widely used psychological profiling tool. An extrovert is not necessarily loud and boorish – an extrovert gains their energy from interactions with others. (Here is a video about how this all works.)

By the same token, an introvert is not necessarily shy – an introvert gains their energy from being alone. Think of it this way: An extrovert recharges by being with people; an introvert recharges by seeking seclusion. Most studies I have read show that there are more extroverts than introverts in the world. Some peg the share of introverts at 25%. (To be fair, some studies say it’s more 50-50.)

Regardless of the numbers, extroverts have set the social norms in society. Jonathan Rauch has written the definitive column on this subject. Being outgoing is seen as friendly and positive. Being silent is seen as being “aloof” or arrogant. An outgoing extrovert has to cross a definite line before they are seen as irritating; whereas, for an introvert, not speaking creates a presumption of disinterest.

But, a major change is afoot. Social media has leveled the playing field somewhat. You don’t have to be an extrovert to be outgoing.

This is opening up public leadership to new people. Success does not need to come with schmoozing and glad-handing, it can come through effective sharing and diligently working online networks.

It will not work for everybody, but it is already beginning to work for some.