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Though she’s now a top executive at a company with nearly 10,000 employees worldwide, Pat Wadors has never much liked the spotlight.
The senior vice president of LinkedIn’s global talent organization, Wadors is a self-proclaimed introvert. Over the course of her career, she’s had to battle the assumption – sometimes her own – that introverts can’t be leaders or as successful as extroverts.
Now, she’s spearheading an initiative designed to help other introverts at LinkedIn thrive. It’s called the “Quiet Ambassador Program,” and it launches officially on April 12.
The program is co-led by the Quiet Leadership Institute, a consultancy that grew out of the 2012 bestseller “Quiet” by Susan Cain. The goal is to educate LinkedIn employees about the way different personalities work best – and to help people learn that introversion doesn’t have to be a barrier to professional success.
And while LinkedIn is serving as a kind of guinea pig for the Quiet Ambassador Program, Cain told Business Insider that she eventually hopes to roll out similar initiatives at other companies across the country. The aim, she said, is to “help harness the power of the introverted half of the workplace.”
Wadors considers the program a way of paying forward the mentorship she received earlier in her career.
“I had to declare my style in my early 30s because I wanted to be a great leader,” she told Business Insider. She didn’t want coworkers to think that just because she was reserved she wasn’t invested in her work.
“Misconstrued quietness is not caring, right? You eat by yourself, you’re alone at social events. It feels like you can’t take on tough jobs or you won’t be aggressive enough to excel in a field, etc. There’s a negative perception.”
Fortunately, she said, “I had this amazing coach who told me, ‘Just tell your peers, your customers that you’re naturally introverted, and how you show up.'” And it was an amazing gift. And I’m trying to give that gift back to others.”
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Yet even once she’d started openly declaring her personality type, Wadors struggled to believe that she could succeed in leadership positions. When Jeff Wiener, LinkedIn’s CEO, was recruiting her, she said, he wanted a business partner and someone who could be a public figure.
“And as an introvert, I was like, ‘I’m not too sure that’s in my bailiwick.’ And Jeff believed in me. And so I was like, ‘All right, I’ll give it a whirl.'”
Shortly afterward, Wadors published her first blog post on LinkedIn, about being an introverted executive in Silicon Valley. The story caught the eye of Arianna Huffington, co-founder and CEO of The Huffington Post, who introduced her via email to Susan Cain.
Cain and Wadors began corresponding and Wadors started hosting roundtable discussions at LinkedIn, with both introverts and extroverts, about leadership and related topics. But because she traveled a lot, she wasn’t able to host them as often as she would have liked.
Once they met in person, Cain suggested that LinkedIn work with the Quiet Leadership Institute, and the Quiet Ambassador Program began to take shape.
The Quiet Ambassadors are a team of 10 LinkedIn employees selected by Wadors, though not all describe themselves as introverts. For six months, the ambassadors will work with the Quiet Leadership Institute, both receiving personalized coaching and learning how to be effective coaches for their colleagues.
They’ll have access to research on the neurobiological underpinnings of introversion and extroversion, video interviews with introverted business executives, and a host of other tools and exercises.
According to the Quiet Leadership Institute website, Quiet Ambassadors will draw on that knowledge to lead round tables and panels and serve as resident experts on personality types and growth. Plus, they’ll identify and mentor some high-potential quiet employees who might otherwise be overlooked.
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“We want to make this dialogue commonplace and no big deal,” Cain said, referring to the dialogue about personality type and success at work.
“Until really recently, it’s been socially unacceptable to even talk about” the differences between introverts and extroverts in the workplace, she said. (The fact that people are more comfortable talking about it now is thanks largely to the publication of her book.)
Hopefully, the program will help encourage LinkedIn leaders and individual contributors to be open about their personality type and preferred work style – the same way Wadors learned to be open.
For example, Cain said, a manager might tell his team that he’s an introvert and explain what it means when he has his head down during the workday. Likewise, an extroverted employee might tell her manager, “I really need to check in with you a few times a day.”
For Wadors, developing the Quiet Ambassadors Program has been incredibly rewarding.
“I’ve found more confidence,” she said. “Like, I am so eagerly excited when I get to talk with Susan Cain on stage [at the New Work Summit] and say, ‘Here’s how you do it,’ like, ‘You can be an amazing leader. You can save your energy and not go home exhausted.'”
Ultimately, she said, “It’s all about diversity and creating belonging moments for everybody, and this is part of that journey.”