How outstanding leaders learn what makes people tick

Patrick Mouratoglou has coached Serena Williams since 2012 and has worked with Marcos Baghdatis and several other top players. In the Netflix series The Playbook, Patrick talks about growing up as a painfully shy child with no self-confidence. It took him a year of meeting with a psychologist once a week before he said a single word. But while he was not speaking, he was taking it all in, studying people, the movements of their face, how they interacted, how they were feeling. He paid attention to every detail about them. His childhood weakness turned into an extraordinary ability to read people. Now he applies his ability to understanding tennis players, their mindset, and emotions so he can see what is going on for them. This ability has made him one of the most influential coaches in tennis.

Introverts also make influential leaders, because like Patrick, they listen well. Susan Cain in her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, describes an experiment where introvert and extrovert team leaders competed to make the best time folding t-shirts. The introvert team leaders had more success because they were more likely to listen to a team member who had a secret fast way to fold the shirts. The extroverted leaders were less likely to listen to the team member who knew the fast method and missed the opportunity to speed the process up.

Dean Phelan and I have interviewed many successful leaders for our book, The Gentle Art of Leadership, who identify themselves as introverts. They reveal it almost like they are confessing a shameful secret. But the reason for their success is the ability to bring out the best in others. They don’t fit the usual image of the extroverted leader, who is the centre of attention. In fact, almost without exception, they downplay their role and emphasise their team as the key to their success. One leader even told us, “I’m actually not that smart, that’s why I have smart people around me.”

But they have an impressive ability to listen to their team and understand what makes people tick.

🙋‍♂️ How important is listening and understanding people to your success? 🙋‍♀️

Best Regards, Brian