Last week I started a series of articles about introverts. Being one myself, this topic is very close to my heart. When you look at popular media you always see famous movies stars, musicians, politicians, athletes who by the definition of their role are very visible, performing in front of crowds, always talking, always being in the middle of everything, beautiful and smiling all the time. In other words they appear to be, most part, very extroverted personalities. However, the chances are that many of them are in fact very introverted. They dread the public performance and try to get out of the open as soon as they can. They simply play a role as required by their job or mission.
Should I try to act differently?
I strongly believe that one can and should try to change his personality traits or habits to be aligned with his or her life mission. Let me illustrate it on a story of my life.
When I was a child I was a prototype introvert. I preferred to play alone, I liked reading and I dreaded interaction with others. I enjoyed being part of the collective, but not in the center of attention. I was completely comfortable just sitting at the table with others and listen. It gave me all the joy I needed. As I grew older I was forced to interact more with my surroundings, I went to university, studied technical subjects and had a side job as a software developer. Then I spent half a year living abroad in very alien environment (well it was in Australia) and found myself meeting lots of people from many different countries. I studied English, essentially communicating all day long and to my surprise I enjoyed being in the center of many activities and often volunteering for various role plays. I was one of few Europeans in mostly Asian collective and I felt very comfortable there.
After I returned to Europe and started to work for Siemens I quickly moved from individual contributor role to leadership and management roles and again to my surprise I discovered I like it and I’m pretty good at it. Something has changed. I was always the first one to step up and speak, I was always having an opinion and didn’t hesitate to present it, I would always be the first one to volunteer for new initiatives and I would enjoy leading others and helping them grow.
So here I was, introverted person acting all the time in a very extroverted manner. And not just that, I was very happy doing it. What has changed? I found something that I’m really passionate about. I found that I like helping others to grow and become better. I found that I love building things and that I can have bigger impact on lives of others in leadership roles. My mission in life spurred from my core values and my mind decided that the best way to live my values and do what I’m passionate about is to act as an extrovert. This act is a way to reach my life goals. And after a while it wasn’t really an act at all but it became part of myself. Deep down I’m still introverted person who loves to relax in some secluded space reading books, writing articles and when being in a group of friends I would still sit in the corner and just listen. However, when it comes to achieving my professional and life goals I seamlessly transform into a more extroverted actor.
How will others seem me when I act out of character?
Many people who know me just professionally would never guess that I’m in fact a rather introverted person. Even when they realize that in the office I’m essentially an actor playing his role of a leader they will accept when they will believe that I’m open and transparent in the way I lead.
I strongly believe that as a leader you need to have several traits that will make you believable to others so they would follow you. You need to be open and honest (thus I have never tried to hide my introversion when it came to discussion). You need to be transparent about your weaknesses (when there is something you don’t know just admit it and learn from others). The most importantly you need to be authentic. This one seems to be at odds with “the acting as extrovert” idea. In fact it is not.
What does authentic means? It means that your words and actions are aligned with your internal values. You have your set of values that you follow and you walk your talk. That makes you authentic. It has nothing to do whether you are introverted or extroverted. Also remember that even when acting a bit more extroverted you shouldn’t take it to the extreme. The moment an introvert starts jumping up and down and yelling at everyone it will look phony and people will immediately see that it is not him. People will always see when you do something that is extremely uncomfortable for you and that is the moment the authenticity comes into question. Unless you remedy it by openly acknowledging that this is not you.
How will I feel when trying to be someone I’m not?
It is impossible to predict how others will feel about something. In fact when you think about it we are all responsible for our own feelings. So how will you feel about “acting” as an extrovert (or vice versa for that matter) really depends on you and how you want to feel about it. From my own experience, as long as there is an underlying principle, a bigger mission and a set of values that guide your actions you will feel pretty good about yourself.
Twitter type summary: “To feel good about yourself when acting out of character make sure the act is aligned with your values and passions.”
Are you introverted person who sometimes fakes it and acts extroverted? Or the other way around are you extrovert who sometimes try to be more introverted? Why do you do it?