Can you stand up and take the heat?

I am actually an introvert at heart. Most of my life I defined my world view as being an observer to life, carefully watching but never participating too much as that would require me to talk to people which meant facing rejection, someone calling me weird, or telling me I wasn’t good enough at something. So I retreated into studying, and proving myself on paper where there was no ambiguity or face to face rejection. I excelled scholastically and chose a profession that involved not talking to very many people who weren’t also introverts, computer science. Ultimately I consider myself pretty lucky. Due to my childhood experiences and phobias I ended up in a very lucrative profession when it comes to trading time for money anyway.

This was reinforced when I got out of school and I worked for a large software company. There were a lot of very smart talented people there, and I fit right in but didn’t excel as much as I could have. I was satisfied with my performance but didn’t stand out. At the time, I didn’t want to stand out, as that brought attention and criticism. See aforementioned phobia. So I only excelled up to a point. I don’t think any of that was bad necessarily, but I have since identified why I stopped that I hadn’t considered before. Many introverts may have similar behavior patterns that stop them from taking the next step in their careers or businesses.

Now let’s examine those that do rise to the top. Think about the ones in your own organization or business. What are they like? How well known are they whether they are famous or infamous? Are they introverts or extroverts. It’s not impossible for introverts to be these leaders but my personal experience, which is limited, has trained me that it is less common. Those that take on the biggest problems or are willing to take on the biggest risks are the ones that stand out and push the group to what is next. They also draw the most fire because not everyone is going to agree with their approach to the problem. The team may even resent or strongly dislike these leaders, but regardless they are the ones calling the shots. How many meetings or water cooler conversations have you had where a good portion of the team disagrees with the direction being made by the leadership? Those conversations may be certainly well founded, and the decisions being made may not ultimately be good for the company, but the team moves forward with those goals anyway. That leader is risking failure which you must do as well if you want to be outstanding at anything.

In order to be outstanding, you’re going to have to stand out

Teams are still what gets the work done, and leadership is required at all levels of an organization from strategic to tactical decisions. If you want to be the one calling the shots, you had better get comfortable with getting criticized, standing out in the crowd, drawing a lot of attention, and being ready to take a stand for your position even if it is unpopular. Learn to associate that pressure with going the right way. If it’s easy, you’re operating at your existing level of performance. When it’s hard you are growing into who you will become. If you can learn to face that pressure and act anyway, you will reach new levels of performance and fulfillment. Give it a try and see what happens.