John Stancavage: What Makes an Exceptional Leader

By Stancavage, John | Tulsa World (Tulsa, OK), December 6, 2014 | Go to article overview

John Stancavage: What Makes an Exceptional Leader


Stancavage, John, Tulsa World (Tulsa, OK)


I was listening to National Public Radio's "Diane Rehm Show" on the way into work last week when her guest, David Rubenstein, CEO of the Carlyle Group, made an interesting observation.

Even though Rubenstein got an early job in the White House and later founded Carlyle -- which he grew into one of the biggest private equity firms in the world -- the executive said no one would have predicted such success for him as he earned his college degree at Duke University.

Rubenstein said he was an introvert in college and even later working for President Jimmy Carter, not the back-slapping, alcohol- drinking, golf-playing type of individual who often rises to the top.

"But when I started my firm (Carlyle, named after the New York hotel where Rubenstein held his initial meetings), I took on the role of fundraiser," he told Rehm. "So I had to reinvent myself."

As a fellow introvert, I always enjoy hearing about other naturally shy individuals who have worked hard to become more outgoing, and, indeed, leaders.

Part of the synchronicity of this particular day involved me arriving at the office to find a new book on my desk. It was, "What Exceptional Leaders Know," (Motivational Press. $19.95) co-written by Tulsan Tracy Spears and Wally Schmader.

The book, which just reached the top of Amazon's business best- seller list, contains several sections on -- guess what? -- introverts as leaders.

I called Spears to congratulate her on the book's sales and brought up Rubenstein's amazing rise from mild-mannered law student to corporate CEO and billionaire.

"I'm not surprised," she said. "It's a big misconception that the most charismatic or extroverted people make the best leaders."

In fact, introverts often can outperform their louder, more brash cohorts. A key reason, Spears said, is that shy people think before they speak. While this can sometimes lead to the impression that they are unsure of themselves or have difficulty making decisions, the truth is that they prefer to analyze a situation carefully before sharing their opinion.

In her book, Spears writes that extroverts often blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. They might go on and bring up a couple of other possible solutions, and maybe more, as they continue speaking, until they finally reach a definitive conclusion. …

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