I Want To Be Alone … Right?

Honore de Balzac“Solitude is fine, but you need someone to tell you that solitude is fine.”

Honore de Balzac

We cannot do this alone …

Much discussion of late about introversion and the mistaken perception that those who prefer an inward focus to refresh and regroup are just shy little creatures.   Without trying to create a coherent narrative, here are some resources to help both those who identify as introverts, those who are not sure, and even those who are definitely extroverts move to a fuller understanding of the value of just being.

Of course, we have to fight the popular perception of both introverted and extroverted behavior to do this.

 Susan Cain has probably done the best job of bringing introversion out of the shadows with her blockbuster book “Quiet”.    For those who need a more academic definition of the term, see  What Is Introversion?  

 Introversion is a basic temperament, so the social aspect — which is what people focus on — is really a small part of being an introvert,

Dr. Marti Olsen Laney, psychotherapist and author of The Introvert Advantage

Back to Balzac’s observation … the truth is that while some people gain energy from being around other people and some do the same thing from the opposite, none of us exists without the other. 

In other words, neither introverted or extroverted behavior is better or more normal.  Each has value, which ebbs and flows based on the situation. 

When you are hosting a celebration, extroversion is the more appropriate mode of behavior, while sitting with a friend who is experiencing grief will usually call for more introverted behavior.   

Extroverts need to recognize that being alone is not the same as lonely, while introverts need to recognize the value of being in physical community with others sometimes is more important than personal comfort.  None of us can afford to be so rigid that we approach the world solely from the viewpoint of our own preferences.

 22 Signs You Are Secretly An Introvert (Huffington Post) gives us a somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but ultimately very useful checklist you can use to assess yourself … you may be pleasantly surprised.

“Research strongly suggests that people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption.”

Read more about the value of introversion in this excellent essay: The Rise of the New GroupThink.  

 We need those who are unlike us, at least to help us clearly see how we are and to make the connections that override our behavioral differences.

Feeling like I want to be alone … for a while … in the Heartland ….


7 Reasons Leadership May Not Matter …


Pick an issue that you are deeply concerned about and I would guess that it is on this list, in one form or another.

I am somewhat biased, but I see #7 as the most critical item …

We can solve problems related to inequality, economics, culture, and nature, given good and trusted leadership.  However, without trusted leadership, we are screwed … to use the professional term.

Unfortunately, this concern about value-driven leadership dovetails with another issue often discussed in leadership development circles:  Leadership is frequently discounted as a discrete and learnable skill.    I imagine many reasons exist for this, but here are five which I know are part of the general equation:

 1)  Effective leadership often looks easy from the outside . . . 

When something looks easy, many people think it IS easy.  Leadership suffers the same image problem as does other helping professions (yes, I believe that leadership is a helping profession), where true skill comes across as almost casual action.

2)  Many people have no particular experience actually leading others . . .

Without experience, we often use superficial things, like titles or positions, to rate leaders.  If you do not know the complexity involved in influencing others positively, you may not appreciate what goes into the small part of leadership that is directly observed.

3)  Some leaders are poor, but talk a good game . . .

They snow us with charismatic personalities, so we do not think to look more objectively at what they do.  For examples, see “Politician” of any party or persuasion, now or in the past, from this country or elsewhere.  I’m sure other examples exist of poor leaders who get away with it, but this genre is just too perfect an example not to use..

4)  Some leaders are really nice people, which tends to deflect serious analysis of their abilities and performance . . .

Critical thinking is a difficult skill to use most of the time, and when someone appears to be a good person, we tend to give them more slack and benefit of our doubt.  Personality can trump achievement sometimes.

5)  Quick fixes are popular … True leadership is a slow and developmental process . . .

We as a society have little patience for long processes, but enjoy the fantasy that we can just pull something off in a heartbeat.   Leadership is not like public image, which actually can be destroyed in the amount of time it takes to post a YouTube video or a snarky photo with a catchy phrase attached.

6)  Some leaders may be in the wrong place at the wrong time for the wrong reasons . . . 

Leadership is not a “one-size-fits-all” type of ability.  One person may excel at leadership during a crisis and great upheaval, while another can keep up the steady, but lengthy process of maintenance which stabilizes an organization for the long haul.  Tools like the DiSC are of great help in beginning the discussion about different forms of leadership.

7)  Leadership models believed by some may be outdated . . .

For example, with number 2 on the Pew list, some folks at the top of a very small economic tip probably justify their relative wealth by assuming that the “Great Man” theory of leadership is working in their case.  When an increasing number struggle, while a few thrive, those few need to give some reasons why things are the way they are.  

While most serious leadership development folks believe that leadership is a learnable skill, which includes knowledge acquisition combined with mentored experience, some people find it in their own best interests to believe that destiny and birthright plays a larger role.

Tomorrow, I’m going to share some more specific thoughts around value and leadership.   All leadership is NOT created equal and our ethics do matter.

Considering the state of leadership and what needs to happen in the Heartland ….


Leadership Heartbeats …

heart-of-L-4b-preorderMark Miller has done it again …

In his fourth book, Mark continues to chip away at my aversion to narrative leadership development by using realistic scenarios, dialogue that sounds like people actually talking, and by communicating a clear message that resonates with me.

Anyone who cares about their personal leadership ability or who is responsible for the leadership development of others, will find much of value in this little fable.

The Heart of Leadership is a slender book, but one packed with thoughtful and research-based observations about the characteristics and attitudes that make someone a superlative leader. As the subtitle suggests, the best leaders have followers who are with them voluntarily and enthusiastically.

I won’t spoil the message by listing either the five core attributes or any of the many highly quotable points made by Mark as he spins a tale of a young leader who has lost his way. You can find those gems for yourself

Somewhat channeling Mitch Albom, Miller’s hero seeks guidance from an older and wiser person, who directs him to five people who each share part of what he needs to learn about being an effective leader … a leader with heart.

“Heart” may sound rather squishy, but Mark’s concept of effective leadership is anything but … this is solid and useful leadership thinking.

Perhaps the most intriguing person in the book is the hero’s father, who we never meet directly, since he dies before the start of the book. Regardless, his influence is everywhere,in every key character, and in the message of this little gem of a leadership development tool.

Buy it, read it, reflect on it, share it, discuss it … Once you crack the cover and start reading, you cannot fail to learn and grow as a leader  … promise.

Leadership development is a crowded field and many ideas and perceptions compete for our attention … Mark Miller is one of the few who should not have to.

Enjoying the book, the author, and the attitude in the Heartland ….



Mark Miller, well known business leader, best-selling author, and communicator, is excited about sharing The Heart of Leadership: Becoming a Leader People Want to Follow with those who are ready to take the next step. You can find it on Amazon and in bookstores everywhere.

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Adrift …


The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude.

Aldous Huxley

 I would like to believe that Huxley is onto something here …

Some of us do not find comfort in being alone.  Ample research reinforces the prevalence in human beings for seeking the company of others.   Extraversion (as defined in the Big Five model of personality traits) is considered more common than introversion.

People who lean toward extraversion appear to be more numerous … also louder and more obviousSmile

But don’t take my word for it …For a quick overview of how we Americans seem to sort out with regard to personality, see “U. S. Geography of Personality”, which includes some fascinating maps of how intraversion and four other classic personality characteristics appear to be distributed within the homeland.

For a more complete review of all this, read “Quiet”, which skewers quite a few myths about the power of introversion.

Being alone does not mean you are lonely … you are simply separate from others.


Are you more extraverted or introverted?  When you seek to refresh your soul and your mind, do you prefer to seek the company of others or the quiet of solitude?

How does this work for you?  What are the benefits of seeking other’s company?  What are the drawbacks?

How does this work against you?  What happens when you act in accordance with your preferences?   What happens when you act in opposition to them?

Why does this matter?

Waiting patiently for your response, but wishing I were out on that boat, just floating along in the Heartland ….


Dogs and People …

Dogs group“One reason a dog can be such a comfort when you’re feeling blue is that he doesn’t try to find out why.”

~ Unknown source, but quoted by dog lovers everywhere

 We might take a little hint from our beloved pets here.   When you seek to truly comfort someone, the reason is not the focus.

 The other person may not be feeling as they do for the reasons you think they are.  Do not assume.

The other person may not be feeling the same emotion you think they are feeling.   Do not assume (repeated suggestion).

The other person may be feeling an emotion you recognize, but at a different level of intensity than you understand.  Do not assume (beginning to get the idea?)

They might not want their issue confronted or their problem solved.  Do not move into Fixer mode.

They might want to just talk about what is going on, not discuss it.  No response needed, just hang out and hang in.

They may not want to talk about it, but just exist for a while.  Do not push for disclosure or to “talk through the pain”.

Maybe they just want someone to sit and be with them …  Meeting their need for support, rather than our need to “Do Something“.

A dog will happily do just that, and so can we.

 I know some of this flies in the face of our traditional understanding of grief and problem-solving, where the emphasis is on action and expression, but some solid recent research supports the value of not doing anything, but just being there.  I’ll talk more about that later this week.

Appreciating the value of just hanging out with another in the Heartland ….