Featured Profiles

Harnessing The Power Of Introverts

Susan Horowitz Cain is the world’s most famous introvert. She is the author of Quiet, Quiet Power, Quiet Journal and the forthcoming book Bittersweet. She is widely recognized for her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, which disputes that modern Western culture misunderstands and undervalues the traits and capabilities of introverted people.


Susan Cain is the youngest of three children and was raised in Lawrence, Nassau County, New York. She was an introvert born to introverted parents. Every weekend, their evening plans included her parents and her older siblings sitting around in the living room engrossed in their respective books. “I was probably the most extroverted of any of them,” she added.


She fell in love with the process of writing at a young age; she recalled, “When I was a kid, I spent countless sunny afternoons writing stories. I called the space under the family card table my workshop and curled up there producing ‘magazines’ — loose leaf paper stapled together — subscriptions to which I sold to indulgent family members. My friend Michelle and I sat side by side at her bedroom table, writing plays and reading them aloud to each other.”


Continuing her love affair with writing, she graduated with an A.B. in English from Princeton University in 1989. However, she later changed her career path. She says in her TedTalk, “I became a Wall Street lawyer, of all things, instead of the writer that I had always longed to be – partly because I needed to prove to myself that I could be bold and assertive too.” She graduated with a J.D. degree from Harvard Law School in 1993.


Cain started her career as an attorney at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and worked there for seven years.


“I still kept seeing how extroverts are held up as the ideal. In my law career, looking at leadership and negotiation skills, there was a belief that you had to be a certain person – a ‘take charge, get what you want’ sort of person,” says Cain.


However, this did not align with her introverted personality and she decided to reroute to her original plan to become a writer. When Cain first left her legal career, she took a leave of absence so she would have a safety net and could go back if necessary. She says this choice gave her ‘psychological freedom.’ She enrolled herself for an NYU class on creative nonfiction writing, which Cain immensely enjoyed: she felt like she was destined for this and pushed herself to achieve more.


Although she loved her class, she started thinking of a plan to earn a living. She soon began teaching negotiation skills (given her legal background) at a consultancy firm in the evenings while she spent her mornings pursuing her passion for writing. She started by writing short plays and short stories as a fun exercise: “It was important to me to start that way, with no financial or professional pressure around it”.


Talking about her book Quiet, she adds, “When I first started working on [Quiet], I thought that it was an odd and idiosyncratic project, so I hoped to make a book out of it, but at the beginning I had no idea it was going to become this gigantic thing. It felt much more like an idiosyncratic personal project.”


However, soon after its release, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking became an instant hit and has been translated into 40 languages since its inception.


Her next book, Quiet Power, was aimed at teenagers. “When Quiet came out, I got so many letters from introverted people aged 40, 50, 60, who were still carrying the wounds of childhood, of growing up as an introverted child in an extroverted culture,” said Cain. “They kept saying, ‘If only I’d known all this when I was a kid.’”


This book was specially written for quiet children and their parents, clearly setting out the differences between introverts, drawn to the inner world of thoughts and feelings, and extroverts, thriving on people and activity.


In 2015, Cain launched Quiet Revolution, a groundbreaking new company that unleashed a new-age movement to empower introverts in every facet of their life – from education to a unique set of services and products. Cain says, “After QUIET was published, I started to hear from thousands and thousands of readers. They said they felt that for the first time in their lives they had permission to be themselves, and they were eager for the tools to encourage other introverts in their companies, their schools, and their personal lives to feel the same way.” This led her on a journey to empower her soul tribe of introverts.


Motivated by the success of Quiet Revolution, she soon launched the Quiet Leadership Institute (QLI), which delivers online and in-person learning programs to help companies better utilize the talents of their introverted employees and improve team communication by fixing the introvert-extrovert dialogue, leading to greater productivity and improved morale.


“Introverts make up an astounding one third to one half of the population,” said Paul Scibetta, CEO & Co-Founder of Quiet Revolution. “Our goal is to become a community of ideas and best practices to inspire introverts and the people who interact with them.” QLI has worked with global organizations such as NASA and Procter & Gamble (P&G).


In conclusion, Cain says, “Introverted leaders are more likely to share power and give others space to express ideas. Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Rosa Parks exemplify such introverted leadership, and a quieter, more balanced and thoughtful culture would produce more leaders like them. Maybe this is a proposition anyone can endorse, whether they prefer Friday nights with hot tea and a novel or in the crush and bustle of the crowds.”