Political introverts

Politicians are imagined to be extroverts. The louder ones are, but the best are equally likely to have traits of introverts. Famous political introverts include Ghandi, Obama (see below), de Gaulle, Lincoln and Gore.

Here’s a collection of links on the role of introverts in politics;

People think of politics as a doing, networking and personality job, not a contemplative job. And studies have found the people prefer doers to thinkers. So you might think that counts out introverts. It doesn’t, and for the quality of political outcomes, neither should it.

I have thought of politics as run by extroverts surrounded by introverts – that is; talkers surrounded by writers (media) and thinkers (officials). It’s more complicated than that.

The best politicians are, like most of us, ’ambiverts’; a mix of both tendencies. We draw different lines for tolerance of interaction with others.

Some will be Extroverted Introverts – people who have built public profiles to deal with their chosen profession or life goals, but who are mainly introverted.

Most politicians who are ambiverts or introverts would have built masks to deal with intensely public tasks such as campaigning and talking to media. Sometimes when politicians appear to have screwed up either of those jobs, I think its because the pressure has broken the extroverted mask and they have become vulnerable.  

Time Magazine took a look at US political leaders using the introvert-extrovert spectrum. There’s a nice analysis here. You assess your position on the spectrum by taking Time’s quiz.

Barack Obama has been accused of being introverted. He’s also been praised for this trait. His public reticence suggests he is, but it’s a ridiculous criticism. Apparently he has been too dull, and not communicative enough. If you want to rescue the role of Presidency from entertainment, that ought not to be a problem. The only really valid criticism of a politician ought to be making bad or unwanted decisions.

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