Introversion and Leadership

Gavin Watson

I am reading “Quiet” by Susan Cain.  It was recommended to me by Allison Holzer one of the co-board members of our Conscious Capitalism group in Connecticut.  Quiet is about “The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking.”

There are many notable observations that Cain makes and I am only about 1/3 of the way through it.

One of the particular things that I found makes a lot of sense to me is the difference between extroverted leaders and introverted leaders and what works best and when.

Cain makes the observation that extroverted leadership works best when the team needs motivation and direction.  The extrovert excels at being confident that they know the one best way and exactly where the group needs to go. They can get a group of disengaged people energized to follow them by sheer dint of personality and self-confidence. They will happily use extrinsic motivators such as threats, or rewards and bonuses to get people to do what they want. If you have a group of non-engaged individuals who are lacking in motivation, and mission or purpose you may need an extroverted leader to get them going, to drive success, to lead the charge!

Susan Cain Quotes


Introverts, in contrast, may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas ….

There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas

Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to.

Introverted leaders, on the other hand, tend to lean back and encourage others to lead from wherever they are.  Introverted leaders recognize that they always have a lot more to learn and discover. They take more time to carefully consider options.  They know that they may not have the best ideas and they are excited to consider a variety of perspectives. Introverted leaders are more likely to welcome a difference of opinion.  They will be more likely to try several options at the same time rather than confidently committing everything to just one best way. They will be more likely to see a need to pivot and make corrections along the way.  Introverted leadership works best in an environment full of meaning and purpose, where people are engaged and eager to contribute in creative ways. The introverted leader also naturally creates this meaningful and intrinsically motivating environment.  The introverted leader creates a safe environment for a variety of opinions and psychological safety to explore new ideas and make mistakes and discover more opportunities for success. 

In the old world (50 years ago) that changed slowly and predictably, where people left themselves at home and came to work to do what they were told and follow the procedures and were just happy to have a job, extroverted leadership was a successful strategy.

Increasingly we live in a complex world where things are not always what they seem to be, and they change quickly. We need the creativity that comes out of working in an environment that is interested in exploring new and contrary ideas.

The introverted style of leadership is increasingly a more successful strategy.  

Gavin Watson

As of January 2020, Gavin Watson began serving as Board Chair of Conscious Capitalism, Connecticut Chapter. View Gavin’s LinkedIn profile here:


Gavin Watson

Chair – Connecticut Chapter

Why do we need a new way of doing business? 

Because the current management and business practices that most companies are practicing today are at least 100years old.  In that time two things have happened. First the world moves much more quickly now and secondly we have learned a lot about the best environments for human engagement and productivity, we now know how to create an engaging and quickly responding workplace.  Several companies have pioneered and achieved this. It results in a better environment for people and a more prosperous company so why would we not do it?

Give us an idea of how have you helped make the world a better place? 

I read a lot of different books and learned about practices other more progressive companies.  I also read a lot in the field of positive psychology and other recent scientific studies. It became obvious to me that we should be managing and structuring our companies not on current “best business practices” which are not science based, but we should be structuring our companies and managing our work places based on the current best research.  Using the information and the examples of other companies I tried out several new approaches and they work very well. We created an environment rich in autonomy and information flow where people can flourish and the company performance is much better. 

What does Conscious capitalism mean to you? 

It means being conscious, self-aware, a certain stage of human development and maturity.  Many companies don’t stop to think about anything past the strategic plan, coming within budget, and making money.  They are acting like a single cell organism that is not self-conscious. A single cell organism that is consuming all of the food in the petri dish as fast as possible.

A conscious company is self-aware.  A conscious company knows why it exists and knows that it exists for something much more than making money.  A conscious company has a purpose and regards making money as just something it must do so that it can continue to exist and continue to pursue it’s purpose.  A conscious company also knows that it has a responsibility to all of its stakeholders. First of all the employees for without them nothing else matters, and without them the purpose cannot be pursued.  Then the other stakeholders; the suppliers, customers, the community, the environment and finally the shareholders who get what is left over of the money. In a conscious company there will be plenty of financial reward because the conscious company will outperform it’s non conscious competition.  The shareholders true reward however is the knowledge of the difference their assets are making in the world. Because the shareholders of a conscious company are of course themselves conscious.

Heather Desjardins

Allison Holzer

Why do we need a new way of doing business?

The world of work has drastically changed in the last 10 years. More than ever before, people want to have a calling, they want the organizations they work for to have a cause, and they want to feel a sense of community both within and outside of work. When people feel inspired by their work and the mission of their organizations, they bring their best to the table. Collectively, everyone benefits. I love Hamdi Ulukaya’s recent TED talk where he says that businesses can be the great positive change agents in today’s society. 

Give us an idea of how have you helped make the world a better place?

I believe that sustainable inspiration is one of the most underrated and most critical resources to be managed in modern work. I’ve spent the last several years researching inspiration, cracking the code on how we can tap into this resource more intentionally. In sharing this knowledge with clients and the world, I’m helping them clear away clutter, activate their strengths, and deliver on extraordinary results. We spend 90K hours on average at work in a lifetime. When more of these hours are inspired ones – both individually and collectively, the world is most certainly a better place. 

What does Conscious capitalism mean to you?

Gone are the days when businesses who only care about the bottom line profits at any cost to others succeed the most. Conscious Capitalism is a collective commitment to being intentional about how we do business so that we are attuned to our impact on others, our colleagues, the environment, the community, the world. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about being conscious and attuned to our impact on others, so when we do make mistakes, we learn from them and grow collectively in the process.  I believe that conscious capitalists are people who are called to do business with empathy. 

Glen McDermott

Executive Director

Why do we need a new way of doing business?

The earlier versions of capitalism had the effect of creating a huge middle class and a sense of shared prosperity. These benefits were best described by the slogan “the rising tide lifts all boats”.

The sense of fairness and equity had a profound positive effect on the fabric of our communities. 

But recently the systems of wealth creation and distribution have been stacked to benefit those at the top and our wealth gap is now at it widest.

Our ecology and climate is also responding to years of abuse. So our business system needs to shift and deliver a sense of shared prosperity, lead with purpose and respond to the needs of the community our environment, supporting equality and diversity while still driving innovation and profitability. 

Give us an idea of how have you helped make the world a better place?

I have had many roles with Fortune 500 companies driving their marketing programs and have become highly skilled at the art and science of guiding consumer behaviour. I have also been passionate about health and wellness and in 2008 I founded Red Rock Branding in response to the acute needs around health and wellness in the USA. This has allowed me to blend my interests in public health and marketing and we have built healthy communities and driven business for social good for brands like Yale, Columbia and Tulane Universities and many other local brands and non profits.

What does Conscious capitalism mean to you?

Of the 4 tenets, the Higher Purpose stands out for me. I believe the market place has a responsibility to address societal challenges and must become part of the solution. There are many companies already active and reaping the rewards. We provide a gathering place, a platform for them and salute their success.

Judi Otton

Why do we need a new way of doing business?

The current model isn’t working.  We’re destroying both our planet and our middle class.  It’s gratifying to see some companies doing good for their employees, their community and the environment, and thriving financially as well.  The more we recognize their good works, celebrate them, and share best practices, the bigger difference we can all make!

Give us an idea of how you have helped make the world a better place?

I’m always been interested in creating work environments that honored our human spirit.  As a technology executive in my earlier career, I instilled good project management practices, among other things, in my teams, and avoided those ‘death march’ projects you may have heard of.  Do it right the first time and you don’t have to do it over.  With the last company I owned, a technology consulting and staffing firm, I noticed many women were not asking for salaries commiserate with their experience.  I let them know when the job payed more and got them that money.  Now as a fractional CFO, I love working with companies with a bigger mission, in addition to their financial success.  Yes, I understand it’s important to make money, and I help them do that, which lets my clients work their magic and do their part to make the world a little bit of a better place.

What does Conscious Capitalism mean to you?

I love the blend of consciousness and capitalism.  It’s not one or the other, it’s both.  It’s companies that are thriving financially AND doing what they can to make the world a better place.  Whether it’s designing environmentally sound buildings, finding kind and low conflict ways through divorces, committing to take great care of their employees, families and communities, or using technology to allow their employees to do higher value, more gratifying work.  There are so many ways my clients enrich their communities, and if I can do a bit to support their good work, I feel that I’ve made a difference.

Michelle Ouimette

Why do we need a new way of doing business?  

CT is a small, charming state; thus our communities, our economy, and our social issues are highly interconnected, not just with each other but with other New England states, and beyond.  Advances in trade, technology and communications have fostered growth and deep linkages. However, this growth at times has been exploitative and negatively impacted our neighbors, our environment, and our sense of security.  What happens in CT business has ripple effects globally and vice versa. We need a new way of doing business that is not exploitative, winner cannot take all! A new way of doing business emboldens businesses to serve as leaders and role models in their local communities; these businesses engage their employees and stakeholders around a vision and a purpose, not just functional operations and profits making.  Conscious Capitalism offers many local and immediate impacts with a ripple effect that can truly make our world a better place.

Give us an idea of how have you helped make the world a better place?  

I have been in the nonprofit sector for nearly 20 years.  Most of my work has focused on helping marginalized youth populations discover who they are, finish school, find employment, and create an adult life that is authentic, and offers possibilities for their future.  While the work has been both difficult and rewarding, I made the greatest impact as the Managing Director of Roses for Autism. In this capacity, I led an organization that helped individuals get jobs, I advocated and spread autism awareness, I delighted our customers with our beautiful, locally grown flowers, I educated small children at our sensory garden, and I inspired a national community of supporters who became very invested in our business and our mission!

What does Conscious capitalism mean to you? 

Conscious Capitalism represents a synergy of an organization’s values, vision, and business strategy all of which meets the needs of its key stakeholders and serves a positive social purpose.  It is through inspired leadership, a smart business model, and a robust company culture that an organization can achieve desired financial results and real impact. Conscious Capitalism is not magical or idealistic…it is the future.

Karen Senteio

Why do we need a new way of doing business?

The world is more complicated and we are more connected than ever. Everything you do affects someone else. That applies to business too. We have a responsibility to care about the impact we have on other people, animals, the environment…the world. Care is kind.

Give us an idea of how have you helped make the world a better place?

I coach and train leaders to recognize the importance to lead with heart and to do the right thing even when it is hard. I hope to inspire couragists.

What does Conscious capitalism mean to you?

Ethically grounded free enterprise.

Jennifer Smithberger

Why do we need a new way of doing business?

People want to feel their work matters and understand how it connects to a bigger picture. For nearly two decades, Gallup findings have shown that more than 50 percent of U.S. employees are not engaged in their work, costing companies up to $550 billion in lost productivity annually. Those companies that are infusing purpose into their DNA better motivate employees, satisfy customers and make more money, outperforming their counterparts in stock price by a factor of 12.

I spent the last decade helping leaders at global companies engage stakeholders with their business missions and strategies. I strived to make purpose tangible and relevant by showcasing how employees across all levels, functions and geographies were making a meaningful difference, contributing to the company and greater society. Sharing these types of stories was rewarding work, but it was not until 2014 that I personally experienced the level of intensity that being driven by purpose can create. I volunteered on a medical mission trip to a war-torn part of the world. There were hundreds of people waiting for us when we arrived at the clinic. Seeing them, hearing their stories and feeling their urgency for care united our team around giving every person a compassionate physician consultation. The days were long and tiring, but our shared purpose fueled us. I had always been a tenacious worker, but this was different. My spirit felt impervious to weakness or distraction. My determination, strength, focus and creativity were all magnified. I was amazed how our team, who had been complete strangers on the flight over, was able to operate with complete transparency, fluidity and trust.

Purpose is a powerful lever in business. It can inspire people and convert them into passionate and loyal employees, customers and partners. I can personally attest to it.

How have you helped make the world a better place?

I have always tried to volunteer in my personal life. I have done things like data entry for the American Red Cross, sorting clothes for Dress for Success and helping clean a house with Habitat for Humanity. As I got older, my volunteering became more focused on sharing my specialized skills in communications and event planning. Although these efforts felt good in the moment, I always wondered if they contributed to any meaningful difference because I was disconnected from their impact.

I recently took the leap into entrepreneurship to do something different that I believe does have the potential to make the world a better place. I have spent the past year building a social impact digital platform for local businesses to market and differentiate their brand based on what they give back to the community. The idea is to maximize the good they are doing to also benefit their business.  As their business grows, what they give back can also grow, creating a more sustainable, year-round effort of good.

So have I made a lasting imprint to make the world a better place? My answer for now is, “it’s a work in progress.”

What does conscious capitalism mean to you? As a business, it means understanding the full effect actions have on all stakeholders—employees, customers, suppliers, shareholders and communities—and having a sense of equal accountability for elevating all their lives and the planet we share. It is also recognizing the immense potential a business might have to harness their intellect, finances, technology and human resources and taking advantage of it to make a positive difference in the world.

Larry Bingaman

Chair Emeritus

Why do we need a new way of doing business?

There is a serious income disparity in our country that will have dire consequences if not addressed. It is simply not sustainable to have an economy where such a large portion of the population is left behind. Our country’s GDP may be on the increase, and the Greater New Haven region may be recognized as a bright spot in the state’s economy, but that prosperity means little if it does not benefit our entire community. 

Conscious Capitalism is the promise of both economic and social success. By reorienting business to be conscious and do good, we can lead successful companies while standing together in support of the social, environmental and financial well-being of all people. For example, conscious, inclusive business has the power to bring economic prosperity to families in struggling communities, giving them a path out of poverty and into success as our future customers or even owners of their own companies. And, conscious, inclusive business can bring opportunity to people, providing them with access to jobs and education as well as promote a sustainable relationship with the environment and improve public health. Conscious, inclusive business can do all of these things, and it has been repeatedly shown that customers and employees respond positively to this commitment to a higher purpose, resulting in significant benefits to the bottom line. Conscious Capitalism benefits our businesses just as much as it benefits our society.

Give us an idea of how you have helped make the world a better place?

Since taking the helm at the Regional Water Authority (RWA), I have worked to reorient the business into a force for positive change. In addition to our commitment to providing a high-quality, reliable and affordable water supply to some 430,000 people, we now offer the services of our laboratory to test the water quality of utilities around the country, helping to bring potable tap water to more people. We have also increased our environmental protection efforts. Recently we hired our first-ever Invasive Species Management Technician, who works with RWA employees and environmental research organizations to develop and execute strategies for eliminating the harmful presence of invasive species in our state.

I also believe that commitment to one’s community is a vital part of business and of life. To that end, I volunteer my time with a number of community organizations. In addition to founding Connecticut’s chapter of Conscious Capitalism, I am a founding partner for New Haven’s Social Venture Partners. As a firm believer in the value of education, I have worked closely with Gateway Community College and Southern Connecticut State University. These two important community partners worked closely with the RWA to develop a first-of-its-kind Public Utility Management Degree program, which is training the next generation of utility workers. Most recently, I was proud to be named the 2019 recipient of the School for Ethical Education’s John Winthrop Wright Ethics in Action Award and be given the opportunity to speak before a group of young people about the importance of ethics in our personal and professional lives.

What does Conscious Capitalism mean to you?

At a time when corporate scandals have triggered a broad discussion on the role of business in society, I believe the Conscious Capitalism philosophy couldn’t be more essential and relevant. 

We need more businesses to help solve the major challenges we face around the world. I believe purpose-driven companies are ideally placed to contribute to positive social, environmental and financial impacts because of their commitment to a higher purpose beyond simply maximizing profit.

For that reason, it has been my personal mission to create positive change in our region and to start the Conscious Capitalism conversation among other state business and community leaders as a way to influence business for the better. I want to grow awareness of conscious business practices to help them become the norm rather than the exception.