The “Door of Success” Opens Both Outward and Inward

I came across a success quote on Twitter invoking a door metaphor that I couldn’t, um, “unlock” the point of.

Fellow Bentley University alum and sales operations blogger Marci Reynolds re-tweeted the quote in question:

I like quotes but I just didn’t get this one: Why would the “door(way) to success” swing only outward and not inward? Does it matter? As long as it opens, right?

Is the point of the quote that being extroverted that is, outwardly focused – is essential to succeed? I hope not, because, as author and TED 2012 speaker Susan Cain compellingly argues, that’s simply not true.

I urge you to listen to Susan Cain’s entire TED talk, but the gist of her presentation is that too often our schools and workplaces are seemingly structured based on the assumption that the best students and workers are extroverts – outgoing types who are in their element working in teams and being “productive.” Unfortunately, few breakthroughs in technology, research or other areas of endeavor have been created by committee.

Our most important institutions, our schools and our workplaces, are designed mostly for extroverts and for extroverts’ need for lots of stimulation…Even in subjects like math and creative writing, which you think would depend on solo flights of thought, kids are now expected to act as committee members…

And when it comes to leadership, introverts are routinely passed over for leadership positions, even though introverts tend to be very careful, much less likely to take outsized risks — which is something we might all favor nowadays…(I)nteresting research by Adam Grant at the Wharton School has found that introverted leaders often deliver better outcomes than extroverts do, because when they are managing proactive employees, they’re much more likely to let those employees run with their ideas…

And groups famously follow the opinions of the most dominant or charismatic person in the room, even though there’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.

Susan Cain’s points are well supported by scads of research; Jim Collins’ Good to Great insights into the personality traits of the top “level 5” leaders immediately come to mind: level 5 leaders are often unassuming, self-effacing and display introverted tendencies – the opposite of what Collins calls the “corrosive celebrity CEO.” Yes, introverts can make excellent leaders. It is a serious mistake for extroverts to believe that introverts merely work in a vacuum without input from others.

Susan Cain also goes out of her way to make clear that she does not disparage extroverted people in any way (she mentions that she’s married to an extrovert). Doing so would be plain dumb. Rather, Susan Cain’s key point is that it’s critical for institutions to set up both extraverts and introverts for success by equipping them with the differing environments they need for success.

By helping to ensure the organization’s “door of success” does indeed open both outward and inward, the organization’s will significantly expand its potential for extraordinary “Good to Great” levels of success. Organizations that don’t get this will find its collective door of success frustratingly difficult to open indeed…

If you liked this post, you may also like:

Introverts: Not Networking is Not an Option! (A Brief Interview with Holland-Mark CEO Chris Colbert)

Point/Counterpoint: Two Polar Opposite Managerial Styles & Personal Brands

Buy this Book and Read it Now: The Leader as a Mensch (Book Review)



2 thoughts on “The “Door of Success” Opens Both Outward and Inward

  1. Hi Mike… Thanks for including my RT in your blog.

    There are a few messages that I took from the quote, “The doorway to success swings outward”
    – True success is about helping others succeed, not helping yourself
    – To be successful, you have to partner with others and not work in silos

    As a born introvert and learned extrovert, I agree that personality type has nothing to do with success. Some of the smartest and most successful people I know are the quieter ones..

    Thanks for starting the conversation.

    – Marci
    Author, The Operations Blog

  2. Thanks for your comment, Marci. Your points are well taken.

    – True success is about helping others succeed, not helping yourself. Definitely!

    Also to this point, Susan Cain notes a migration in self-help books from character to personality, and makes a passing reference to Dale Carnegie’s perennial best-seller. The good news is Dale Carnegie was all about “How to Win Friends and Influence People” through a genuine interest in others and not in the cynically manipulative manner of a corrosive narcissistic CEO. His conversational/blogger style of writing was also very unique for his time. If a born introvert wants to learn “essential extroversion” (and they should), I suggest that book may be all they really need, along with this one.

    – To be successful, you have to partner with others and not work in silos. It may depend on the endeavor, but I agree. Apple never would have come to be had Steve Wozniak not worked away on his own on the Apple II after he was done with his day job at HP, as Susan Cain correctly noted; of course, Apple never would have ever existed without Steve Jobs’ vision, unstoppable personality and ability to align an entire ecosystem around the iPod, iPhone and iPad, with massive success.

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