Not all successful CEOs are extroverts - Part 1

(This article is taken from USA Today, June 7, 2006, Del Jones.)

The following is a great article depicting Extroverts and Introverts and I think you will enjoy reading it. My Southwest pilot friend, Cathy, ISTJ, brought it to me and when I read it I called and thanked her profusely because the article gives a great illustration of the strengths and talents of Introverts. Introverts have gotten a “bad rap” over the years because they are viewed as being shy and that is not necessarily so. The information below clears this misconception up.

Chris Scherpenseel, president of Microsoft’s 140-employee FRx Software subsidiary, is an amateur astronomer. “I hate to call astronomers lonely, but most people don’t want to be up at 1 a.m. when it’s cold outside,” he says.

Alone is the way Scherpenseel likes it. So does his boss, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates. But rather than being the exception, they have plenty of company among corporate brass in their preference for solitude.

It seems counter-intuitive, but introverts and closet introverts populate the highest corporate offices, so much so that four in 10 top executives test out to be introverts, a proportion only a little lower than the 50-50 split among the overall population age 40 and older.

There are many ingredients to success, and one of the most obvious has always been an outgoing, gregarious personality that lets fast risers stand out in a crowd of talent. But successful introverts seem to have mastered the ability to act like extroverts. Some liken it to an out-of-body experience that lets them watch themselves be temporarily unreserved. They remain introverts to the core, and if they don’t get down time alone or with family, they feel their energy being sapped.

The list of well-known corporate CEO introverts reads like a Who’s Who, starting with Gates, who has long been described as shy and unsocial, and who often goes off by himself to reflect. Others widely presumed to be introverts include Warren Buffett, Charles Schwab, movie magnate Steven Spielberg and Sara Lee CEO Brenda Barnes.

“I’ve always been shy,” Barnes told USA TODAY in an interview early this year at her Chicago office. She turns down most speeches and nearly all interview requests. “People wouldn’t call me that, but I am.”

Former Sun Microsystems executive Jim Green, now CEO of Composite Software, has jogged the streets solo from London to New Zealand to recharge. SkyeTec CEO Chris Uhland was at a wedding recently where he snuck off by himself to watch golf on TV. His wife was not happy. Patricia Copeland, wife of former Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu CEO James Copeland, understands. She told USA TODAY three years ago that even at family get-togethers in Georgia, her husband will soon be found taking refuge in a book.

Copeland sent an e-mail of clarification last month from a ConocoPhillips board meeting in Houston. He says he is insecure in social settings, but enjoys other people when there’s a problem to be solved.

“I tried to deal with my weakness” by being active in such endeavors as the


United Way

, he wrote. That seemed to work, but throw Copeland into a cocktail party and watch him squirm. “In purely social events, I just toughed it out and did the best I could.”

Many CEOs rise from marketing and other arenas of extroversion. But they’re just as likely to come from the finance or information technology disciplines. The software industry might have the highest proportion of CEO introverts, starting with Gates, says astronomer hobbyist Scherpenseel, who began as a certified public accountant.

Introverts say they succeed because they have inner strength and think before they act. When faced with difficult decisions, introverts worry little about what other people will think of them, Uhland says.

Although reclusive by nature, shy CEOs seem to have been making more than their share of news lately. When USA TODAY ordered up handwriting analyses two years ago of CEOs facing criminal charges, three different experts called former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling an introvert and inhibited loner. The other former Enron CEO on trial, Ken Lay, was often seen making small talk with strangers in the courthouse hallways. But Skilling typically restricted himself to speaking to his wife or his lawyer, Dan Petrocelli, who in his closing argument last month called Skilling anti-social. A jury convicted Skilling and Lay of hiding Enron’s true financial condition from investors.

Another CEO to make headlines, William Swanson, says he was “extremely shy” when he first joined Raytheon as a young engineer. He rarely spoke at meetings, but rather scribbled notes of observations that he said led to his publishing decades later of Swanson’s Unwritten Rules of Management, a booklet recently discovered to be so plagiarized that the Raytheon board of directors denied him a pay raise.

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