How Quiet Ambassadors Will Revolutionize the Extroverted Workplace

Pat Wadors is currently the SVP of Global Talent Organization at LinkedIn. She acquired her business knowledge through her 27-plus years of experience in HR as well as her past roles in Sales, Business Operations, and IT. Prior companies include Calvin Klein Cosmetics, Viacom International, Merck Pharmaceutical, Applied Materials, Align Technology, Yahoo! and Plantronics.

It started with a single blog post about being an introverted leader in Silicon Valley. Less than two years later and with what feels like lightning speed, we at LinkedIn are about to kick off a new Quiet Ambassador Program in partnership with Susan Cain and her company, the Quiet Leadership Institute. For me, this has been an amazing journey and one that has given me more gifts than I have attempted to give or imagined receiving. How did we end up here?

I wrote that first post because a leader in my company couldn’t imagine how an introvert became an executive and one who ran Human Resources in a Silicon Valley organization, no less. To his credit, he moved wholeheartedly from disbelief to advocacy. First, he wanted me to talk to his 60% introverted team and share my story, and then he pushed me to write that first post. I didn’t initially think so myself, but he thought my story was important enough that it needed to reach a wider audience. As an introvert, I was really scared sharing that first post with the world and putting myself out there.

But it was worth it, because I learned that this leader’s initial perception wasn’t unusual. That disbelief, that an introvert may be a leader, was common among not only extroverts but also my fellow introverts. That simple push was all I needed—I was motivated to share more stories.

After I started speaking out and advocating, my world changed.

In October of 2014, I had the privilege of meeting Arianna Huffington at a LinkedIn Talent event. In that introduction, she mentioned my post and the fact that her daughter, who is also an introvert, really appreciated my insights. Arianna insisted that I meet Susan Cain. This was a dream come true. I had seen her Ted Talk and read Quiet, and I knew Susan was someone from whom I could learn. So began our “pen pal” relationship—Susan always being there to share insights and to push gently.

Susan’s pushing turned out to be a stack of dominoes. Next, I was pushing: when I discovered that our employees wanted to learn more, I started hosting Introvert Roundtables last summer. They were modest but mighty—we would fill our purposefully small class within minutes of opening sign-ups with more than 50 on the wait list for each session. It turned out that LinkedIn employees had a huge appetite for diving into learning and teaching others how to navigate a loud world. And a few of them emerged as quiet leaders themselves.

The challenge soon became obvious: as the sponsor, could I host mini-classes around the world for LinkedIn and reach all the interested employees? The appetite, scale, and complexity begged for more from me.  

So began the discussion with Susan’s team at the Quiet House in New York in Fall 2015. The ask? Help us teach others to lead—to evolve and share the strengths and assets of quiet leadership. The Ambassador Program emerged. Ambassadors, a mix of outgoing and quiet personalities, were picked based on their personal interests in exploring personality styles, strong performance, and expressed desires to be in leadership positions.

To say that I am excited is an understatement. I know this program will not only transform the Ambassadors who take on the leadership of developing our quiet styles but also forever change the dialogue on leadership styles and the way our many types of voices are heard in business. The role of the Ambassador is to learn and develop oneself and to become an advocate for others—inside and outside of LinkedIn walls.

The trained Ambassadors and the employees they will impact will emerge stronger and more confident professionals and people. An Ambassador’s influence will be broader as they will have a “louder” voice, without losing their energy or what makes their individual personality so effective in the workplace. We want to build a culture that is diverse and inclusive, where everyone feels like they belong. Helping introverts leverage their strengths and meet others like them, from whom they can learn, will provide a sense of that community.

The journey has just begun: the Quiet Ambassador program launches in a few weeks at LinkedIn, and we can’t wait for the many lessons, conversations, and insights we’re about to experience. As I think of the self-awareness and confidence that will evolve as LinkedIn and QLI go on this journey together, I’m very proud of LinkedIn’s new Quiet Ambassadors and the difference they will make, not just at work, but in all the places they will assume strength and leadership roles.

Good luck on your journey, and know I am quietly cheering you on!

This moment wasn’t only a defining one for Pat. It turns out when she took her realization back to the company, her discovery empowered some of her colleagues as well. Natalya Williamson writes about how Pat’s story affected the way she handles her own introversion in the workplace.