Quiet Persistence and Force in Leadership

I’ve been reading this book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, so that I can once and for all address what to do about this problem I have of, well, being quiet. Fortunately, this problem is common, if not weird, and in Quiet, Susan Cain is on a mission to prove that being introverted is not inherently weak or odd but instead can wield power.

I’ve arrived at the part in the book where she introduces the idea of Quiet Persistence, which she describes as a soft power that involves day-to-day, person-to-person persistence in interactions that eventually builds up a team. For example, she sites Mother Teresa, the Buddha, and Gandhi. I thought about this the other day as I watched Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett. During the cross-examination, Judge Barrett came across as extremely competent and composed, as you would expect of anyone nominated to the Supreme Court. Of particular interest to me were her feminine characteristics—her dress, her looks, her facial expressions, her soft-spoken manner—none of which undermined or distracted from her position or message at all. And at that point, I thought, here is a great role model for women on how to be in a position of influence.

Except for one problem. In certain lines of work, like the military or law enforcement, it’s not about the quality of your ideas, presentation skills, or brainpower. Instead there’s an added criteria on which leaders are based which I will loosely describe as Force. This makes sense since the nature of military or law enforcement work is conflict based. As a result, the team-sport jock archetype and the military leader mold often appear to be the one and the same. For example, when I used to sit on a service academy nomination board, we’d pour over applications and student essays while evaluating candidates. If you were captain of the football offensive line, great! If you were first chair clarinet in the orchestra, hmm. Our reluctance had nothing to do with an inherent bias for football over band, but I realize now that it had everything to do with accounting for Force. Orchestra and other soft extracurriculars told board members little about whether a candidate had it in him or her to exert and withstand Force.

In the military, at least, this has left us non-jocks, and non-jock women and minorities, with few role models on how to be. And in such a situation, there’s only one place I can think to turn to: Game of Thrones, and I’m lookin’ at the likes of Yara Greyjoy and Brianne of Tarth, for a little inspiration. I only wish they were real people.

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