You have to be extroverted to be a leader. 

Only if you have employees are you a leader.

Either you have it or you don’t. Leaders have a natural gift, you can’t learn it.

Those are three typical myths about leaders. In today’s episode, I talk with Gary about these three false beliefs. We point out why they’re false and give some counterexamples.

We also discuss why they limit your development and make you a victim, so to speak.

As statisticians, we are often introverted. We can use this to our advantage. We can take leadership, in our cross functional teams. And we can learn these leadership skills as well.

All good leaders are always learning.

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Myths About Leadership You Shouldn’t Believe

[00:00:00] Alexander: Welcome to another episode of The Effective Statistician. I’m really glad to talk about one of the reoccurring themes here leadership. And I’m joined today again by the other leadership expert. Gary, how are you doing?

[00:00:17] Gary: Doing great. Doing great. Good to do another podcast. It’s been a while.

[00:00:21] Alexander: Yeah, it’s been a while. If you love listening to episodes like this, then you can also scroll back, thats lots of further episodes, both Gary and myself all things leadership, and I think you can get a lot of great free content from that. So today we wanna talk about a couple of Wrong beliefs, very often called Myth.

And I’m pronouncing this correctly now. And yeah, misbeliefs about leadership and the first one is a very common one. I think we see that in discussions with people all the time. Especially our fellow statisticians, data scientists, statistical programmers. We tend to be pretty introvert and we often get this challenge. It needs to be, you need to be extroverted to be a leader. Gary, what do you think about this?

[00:01:25] Gary: I disagree. If I wanna be more blunt, I think it’s garbage. So yeah, I think one thing we need to start with is what the definition of an introvert is, because I think that’s maybe the myth that misleads people is that people think introverts or people that don’t like to talk to people or that they’re not good at communicating. And those are wrong. As an introvert is simply someone. Who gets energy from being alone, it doesn’t mean that they always wanna be alone, it just means that they need alone time to recharge their batteries. And I think that’s where the myth starts. I’m an introvert. I think, I don’t know if you consider yourself an introvert?

[00:02:06] Alexander: I think I’m somewhere in the middle between introvert and extrovert, but Yeah. Compared to lots of people, I’m an introvert compared to lots of statisticians. Maybe I’m a little bit more extrovert.

[00:02:17] Gary: I think that’s fair. Yeah. So I’m an introvert and I love talking with people, but there’s a point where I just need alone time to recharge that. Being with people too much tends to drain me. Whereas an extrovert is someone who gets energy from being with people. So that, I think we need to be clear. That’s the definition. Cuz a lot of people I think they misunderstand, they think introverts, like they don’t wanna talk to people or they’re not good communicators. And I think that’s patently false.

[00:02:45] Alexander: Yeah. Completely agree with this. And there’s really great introverts that I know. Yeah. Some supervisors I had were really great introvert and leaders that’s outside of our industry there’s, very famous people that are introverts like Bill Gates, Stephen Spielberg, Warren Buffett, Albert Einstein, and many more. Yeah. So just, look for successful introverts and you’ll find many of them. Yeah. In all kind of different fields of life.

[00:03:23] Gary: Yeah, and I think that it’s the common thing that different people have different strengths, and there’s certainly a strength that extroverts have as being a leaders because they maybe can, they’re more comfortable with people for long periods of time.

And that’s certainly advantageous. And maybe by being extroverts initially, they are more comfortable speaking with people. Maybe they can make a little bit better first impression. But I would say the advantage of introverts is that since we do spend time alone, more so time than extroverts that we’re, we like to spend that time thinking and leadership is a lot about thinking.

You have to think through situations and problems and anticipate changes. And make tough decisions. And a lot of times those decisions you have to think through pros and cons and gather information and process it. I had someone come up to me, I was teaching a course at a company a month or so ago, and someone came up and basically said, in so many words, What do I do?

Because I’m as a, at a disadvantage because I’m an introvert and I scolded them and I said, okay, just stop right there. You’re not at a disadvantage. And we went on to have a discussion about some of the strengths of being an introvert. And the other thing I’ll say is, and if people want a good reference or a good book on introverts Susan Kane wrote a book called Quiet.

And one thing I believe I read this in her book was that she looked at a large group of CEOs at companies, and I think it was pretty much split 50 50 in terms of introverts and extroverts. Basically the data says there’s really no advantage either way.

[00:05:05] Alexander: Yeah. One other thing is I think introverts are also very often very good listeners. Yeah and listening, as is one of the skills or is the skill we start talking about in our leadership program because it’s very fundamental to all the other things in terms of leadership. If you are not a good listener, you can’t build relationship with people, you can’t get all the information, you can’t get can really understand the problems, all these kind of different things.

That’s yet another. Advantage that many introverts have. Yeah, of course. We need to build these skills all. Yeah. It’s, it is nothing that is, that we directly start perfectly with. It’s something yeah, you can improve over time.

[00:06:00] Gary: Absolutely. Yeah.

[00:06:02] Alexander: The second challenge. That is very common. And I was thinking this was thinking about this in the same way when I started in the industry, I thought leadership is only for people with a leadership title. Yeah. So for administrative leaders, for supervisors, directors, vice presidents, Whatsoever that have people management positions. And I thought kind of leadership and leading people and having this position is the same. And interestingly, very often is used in this way. In companies, they talk about leaders and only think about supervisors. And I think this is another completely wrong perception.

[00:06:56] Gary: Yeah, I had an experience. I used to think that way too. And I remember early in my career when I was working as a technical statistician I had this idea and I took it to, at the time, my senior director who was my manager’s manager. And I shared the idea with them and they asked some questions and we had a good discussion and I walked away thinking, okay, I’ve given them my idea.

Now they’ll move it forward. And it went nowhere. And I realized over the course of the next, six months or year as I thought about it, that I guess it’s not his job or her job to move my idea forward. It’s my job. And if you think about that managers and having been both a technical statistician and someone in management positions I know that when you get into management positions, you don’t have the time. To have the deep technical skills and breadth and keep up with everything that, an individual contributor does, or even a statistician whose focus is primarily technical work. And so managers don’t have the complete skillset to be able to understand how an idea fits with the business or fits with the science.

And I, again, I figured out that was my job to take my idea forward and I, and in one of my early management roles, I had a statistician come to me and he was talking about some past experiences, and he said, I used to take these ideas to, one of our old managers, Bob and he did nothing with them. And then I had to educate him to say that’s not, that wasn’t his job. That’s your job. And as you and I know Alexander, we think of leadership as getting others to buy into your ideas and you’re the one that can best express and explain your ideas. Now you can leverage others, you can certainly leverage managers to maybe get you an audience with someone or help you maybe sort through the business benefits of an idea or how you might implement it. But that responsibility lies with technical statisticians as well as some managers.

[00:08:59] Alexander: Yeah, and you can achieve amazing things without any title. There’s one very famous person in history. Yeah, not so distant history. Gandhi. Yeah. He had no role, no title whatsoever. And still he became the father of modern India. Yeah. And completely changed, the landscape in that part of the hemisphere. Imagine. Yeah. It’s a huge country. He was fighting against, at the time the biggest power, biggest military power. And still he won without any weapons or anything, just through his leadership skills.

And so if you think you need some kind of, position that’s just wrong. Yeah. I remember when I did my first performance review. Maybe it was half term review or something like this at Lilly and my, one of these kind of dimensions that I was assessed again, was achieving through others.

And I thought to myself this is not applicable for me because I’m not a supervisor. And I said to Frank, my supervisor at the time we can skip that because that’s not applicable to me. And he said wait. That’s applicable to everybody. And then he helped me understand what that actually means.

And Achieving through others is just leadership. Yeah. It is just getting work done through others with others, and that is really the important piece. And we do that all the time actually. Yeah. If you think about your private life, you don’t have usually a position, or at least not a supervisory position in your church. In your sports club, in your whatsoever activities. Yeah. But you still organize all of that. Yeah. You drive things forward, you achieve things through and with others, and that’s leadership. So,

[00:11:27] Gary: Yeah. I was gonna say the people that drove the ideas, at least in what I remember the last 15, 20 years of my career were the technical statisticians they were the ones and again, we can talk about this will lead nicely into I think some of the other myths. But, they were able to gain enough understanding of the business and the science that, like I said, I was ill-equipped, at least for a scientist at my group to really take their ideas forward.

And if you look at it just from a sheer numbers standpoint, if someone has, 10 direct report reports or an organization of 50 people, how can one manager take all those ideas forward? So it is definitely the responsibility of the individual contributors and the group leaders and first level supervisors who are technical contributors, to do that. And they can do it. They can do it. They’re best equipped to do it.

[00:12:17] Alexander: I’m just thinking about a really good example within our field. He is a statistician without any supervisory position at Roche, he’s very good on the technical side, but he also understands that, just being good on the technical side isn’t sufficient. It’s not enough to have a great idea. An innovation only comes because you have invention. Something that is new, that is helpful and what he calls commercialization. And this is getting this idea rolled out, getting it implemented broadly, getting buy-in from what the organization changing the organization’s in terms of, culture, procedures, tools, whatever it needs for this idea.

For him one of the success factors or success topics were the estimate concept at Roche. And because of him, largely him, I think this concept has been rolled out pretty successfully at Roche, and I know that many other companies. Struggle big time with rolling out this concept and, this is not a new one.

Yeah. Since the first kind of discussions about it are something like eight, nine years ago. Yeah. There’s an I C H estimate at DUNUM now. So all of these things have been in the works for many years. Still, there are, it’s lacking leadership within the different organizations to roll it out. And here there was one very talented statistician Kaspar, who also has the leadership skills to roll it out. Okay, let’s move to the next one. Leaders are born, naturally born leaders. What do you think about that one?

[00:14:21] Gary: Yeah, you can just go back to the example that you talked about that if when you have an idea a technical idea, nobody’s born with the understanding of the business that they work in or the science that they work in, and that’s one of the core skills that people have to work at.

I believe everybody is born with certain strengths and some of those strengths may make you more prepared to be a leader initially. But as the topics that we talk about in terms of communication and trust and negotiation and business acumen those are skills that people develop for the most part. Some people, like I said, might be born with a better gift of communicating. But they still need to look at the other skills that they don’t have and develop those skills because they’re ultimately gonna run into things. But maybe there’s a rare one in 10,000 people that just figures out the different topics of leadership quickly. But I think we can speak from personal experience in terms of the, Yeah. The skills that we had to develop to become leaders.

[00:15:29] Alexander: Yeah, absolutely. And we have also seen it in many participants of the leadership program. That they took up the challenge to develop themselves. They invested in them, and that helped them to drive change, positive change that was very beneficial for their organizations.

You can be a leader even though you might think you don’t yet have it. All the skills that you need. I’m pretty sure you already have a lot of skills maybe that you take for granted. Like analytical thinking. Yeah. That we have very well trained in, and yet it is a really crucial skill for leadership that many others don’t have. And so that is something that you can build on. Yeah. Understanding complex problems, seeing what is the main driver in problems getting to the source, also problem, these kind of things are really great skills.

[00:16:39] Gary: Yeah. And just like anyone isn’t born to necessarily with all the skills. Now if you take that skill, You can probably ride that skill a long way, but you need to compliment that with other skills. And this goes for statisticians. This goes for other professions too. But at some point, and again, I’ll use communication you may have those analytical thinking skills and be able to process information and develop certain ideas, but then you need to communicate those ideas. So if that may be a skill that you’re not born with or not gifted with. For people that maybe are gifted with that skill. Maybe they need to figure out how to listen. Maybe they need to figure out, again, understand the business or the science in their areas. It doesn’t mean that you have to have, we can give you a whole laundry list of different leaders leadership skills, and it doesn’t mean that you need to be exceptional in all those areas. But you need to, again, recognize your own strengths, your weaknesses and not all the weaknesses. You need to turn into strengths, but some of them you need to at least make yourself competent in. But I would say I don’t know that there’s any person that’s born with every skill and doesn’t have to work at it.

I can think of a couple of the best leaders that I worked with, and they talked about. Being students of leadership their entire careers and having mentors, even to the point when they got to be vice presidents or senior vice presidents. So that should tell you something.

[00:18:11] Alexander: Yeah. And if you look into, great leaders, even really good communicators, they never stop learning, practicing. If you think about great communicators like Steve Jobs, Yeah, he was honing on his skill. He was improving practicing all the time. And then he was also learning from mistakes. Yes, there were definitely some big mistakes he made. Yeah. If you think about the instance where he put on Bill Gates on a big screen behind him and that made him look very small. He was later looking at it and saying Heck was so stupid. Yeah. He learned from it. Yeah.

[00:18:52] Gary: Yeah. And even, everyone, or maybe most people don’t know or some people don’t know that Steve Jobs failed in his first leadership role is he was fired as the CEO of Apple. And I think then he started even to realize there are certain things that I need to do better.

There are certain things that, that I’m not doing well. And some of those he compensated for, but some of them he recognized them and adjusted his approach or adjusted the approach within his organization so that they wouldn’t come off as so damaging. Yeah, it’s true of I think everyone.

[00:19:26] Alexander: Yeah. The false misperception we wanna talk about is something that I see a lot. As a leader, you need to know it all. I see so many people that, climb up is the administrative or the technical ladder, and then they start, stop to ask questions, say they assume they need to know it all. Yeah. All the different things that’s expected of them. And therefore say, stop asking questions. What do you think?

[00:20:05] Gary: Yeah, this is one of the things again, most of the training we do is for technical statisticians and a lot of times it breaks or after co courses that people will come up to me and start talking about their manager or their supervisor, or they’ll ask questions like, what if. My manager doesn’t have these skills and I think what I found is that there’s a belief that once you make it into what I’ll call management, and maybe it’s starting with people management, that when you have people reporting to you, that in some ways that’s a validation of you as a leader.

And I would say not just the opposite, but I think people see potential in you as a leader and specifically a people leader. And that is the maybe the most important time to start doubling down in reinvesting on your leadership skills because none of us have experience managing people before our first people management assignment. Maybe you have kids or something, and that’s maybe managing people or maybe you’ve had some experience outside of work. But that is the time to seek out coaching, to seek out training, to start understanding yourself. What is this people management thing all about?

And how do I inspire people? How do I coach people? How do I work with them? How do I get the most out of them? And I feel like sometimes we’ll see a lack of people managers in our training. Because I don’t know if there’s a, if there’s a sense that if I take training, is that an admission that I’m not prepared? I got news for you. Nobody’s completely prepared. So yeah. That is the time to. To seek out mentors and seek out training and start studying and keep or keep studying and figure out some of these skills. Yeah. So that’s, that would be my position.

[00:22:03] Alexander: Yeah. And you can’t know it all. Nobody knows it all. Yeah. Says know this field is far too big. The skills are far too complex. To be perfect and everything and know it all. Yeah. Our, I think our lifespan is too short for that. Yeah. It’s the same with it’s very similar to being a technical statistician. Yeah. You wouldn’t stop learning about stats after you got your PhD or after you got your first technical promotion or after you become a fellow of X, Y, Z.

Yeah, you don’t stop. You continue and you only recognize while you learn that there’s so many more things you can learn about. And that is the same with leadership. Yeah. This, the moment you open your eyes and look, you know what is all out there, you’ll start to realize that there’s a huge amount of research in this area that there’s lots of different skills that you can learn. That there are so many different techniques and tools and whatsoever that you can learn about.

[00:23:17] Gary: Yeah, you asked the question about or made the point that technical statisticians don’t stop and at least technical statisticians get a lot of technical training in their graduate training. If I asked our audience out there to raise their hands as to who got leadership training in graduate school I bet you the, it would be in the single digits probably.

So in a sense, it’s first this admission that you have. No training. Now a as you enter professional life and if you’re observant and studious and you look around, you can learn a lot from some of the leaders around you. Maybe you have a good first line supervisor, your first few years or some good experiences and learning from them is a great way. I’ll share just a personal experience that I wasn’t, I didn’t become a people manager until I had worked as a technical statistician for 12 years. I think that’s way above the average. I think most technical statisticians, when they get their first line supervisor role, if they do it’s probably, it could be as short as three years and maybe often in the five to seven year range.

And I was a very observant technical statistician from a standpoint of watching. I had probably, I think five or six different managers over that time and I learned a lot from them. Mostly good, some bad. But even going into my first management role, as prepared as I thought I was, I still made mistakes.

I still had a mentor and I would remember going to them and saying, Hey here’s what I did. I didn’t think it was the right thing. And yeah, that wasn’t the right thing. Or recognizing, when you need to intervene with someone from a. From a performance standpoint if they’re not doing well, these are very sort of judgment based things, but they come with on the job experience and they’re even better when you get coaching from someone, when you get coaching from someone who’s been through those challenges in terms of, taking on a new organization of people or dealing with people or any of those things.

Communicating, having performance reviews. Taking someone forward for promotion. All of those things. Nobody’s trained in those things. So you might get some learning just by observing others. But when you get that first assigned leadership role, if you do, that’s really the time to double down. If you’re a student of leadership, you need to continue being a student of leadership.

[00:25:44] Alexander: And even if you never become a supervisor, if you wanna increase your impact as a technical statistician, you will need to lead people, like I mentioned with Kaspar. Yeah. He’s not a supervisor yet. He leads his company in many different ways.

Yeah. One topic about leadership that is also similar to the statistics world is it’s important to understand certain concepts. If you don’t. Have a word to describe certain concepts. If you don’t know about the existings of certain concepts, you can’t talk about it. You can’t think about it. You can’t reflect about it. You can improve on it. And like it is with statistics. Yeah. If you don’t know what a distribution function is, if you don’t know what a test is, if you don’t know what an estimation is, all these kind of different things, yeah. You can’t think about it. You can’t speak about it, you can’t learn about it.

The same is with leadership. If you don’t understand what are different sources of influence. How you can persuade someone. What is the role of trust in leadership, all these kind of different things. You will fail and you have no clue why you are failing, so you can’t correct. Or you succeed but you don’t know. If you succeed for what reason? Yeah. What was actually good, what was bad, what was helpful? Yeah. Or did you succeed despite of something? Yeah. And so if you want to improve, you need to know what you’re good at. And that needs a lot of training.

[00:27:40] Gary: Yeah. Yeah. I’ll add to that like your, the ability to negotiate The ability to drive change. There are concepts that underlie these things that people are become experts in because they practice, but also they study they read they take training, they work with others, they work with experts in those fields and they recognize, those concepts. And how they feed into these skills and how these skills all come together to make someone. And effective and sustainable leader.

[00:28:15] Alexander: Yeah. Yeah. And if you’re good at that, you can already, see whether something will be successful or not successful. Just because you can see is everything there to be successful or what are the missing pieces? Then you can work on this. Yeah. Okay, so let’s have a short review of these four topics that we talked about. So first one, not only extroverts, but also introverts can be leaders.

[00:28:49] Gary: Absolutely.

[00:28:51] Alexander: Second, irrespective of what position you are in, what title you have, you can be a leader. Third, leaders are made, not born. Yeah. And leaders are made through hard work, through understanding what it takes to be a courageous, stepping forward, and driving change forward.

[00:29:19] Gary: Interestingly that’s an exact quote from probably one of the more famous American football coaches, Vince Lombardi, if you go look it up. And he says that pretty much word.

[00:29:29] Alexander: Yep. We have him on a slide in our leadership program as well. And lastly, as a leader, you don’t need to know it all. You are encouraged to ask questions. Leaders learn, develop, make mistakes all the time, and that’s how they get better and better. Yeah. So there’s this famous quote by Michael Jordan said, about how often he missed. Yeah. And that’s how he became better. So, That is a summary. Thanks so much, Gary for this great discussion.

[00:30:11] Gary: Thank you.

[00:30:12] Alexander: Before we end the show there are many different free tools on the homepage to improve on your leadership skills check these out on There are many episodes about improving your leadership skills. All of these, just search for leadership for Gary in the podcast you’ll find plenty of podcasts episodes there. And we also have something which we mentioned a couple of times, the Effective Statistician Leadership program. There are two ways you can actually there’s three guys you can actually get into the program. The first is you can enroll any time and just listen to the videos and do all the exercises for yourself.

Yeah, that’s one way. It’s not our recommended way, but that’s one way. The second is the, that’s how most of the people nowadays get into the program. The companies invest in it. Yeah. So the companies that you work for maybe has, don’t know, 10, 12. 30, 40, 400 statistician, data scientists. Yeah. Programmers. And they need training like you. And if you want to have your company invest in it so that not only you but your function can have can improve in terms of leadership skills, can have more impact. Become more influential, then just contact Gary or myself and we can chat about how we can make that happen.

We do this quite a lot, and that works really fine. The last opportunity. In the fall of 2023, we’ll open another track of the Effective Statistician Leadership Program and this track will be open to individuals around the world who wanna be part of that. And this program will then consist of both the self-learning part and the masterminds.

Gary, maybe you wanna talk a little bit about what the benefit of the masterminds are and what this is.

[00:32:45] Gary: Yeah, the and this really goes back to adult learning that and especially leadership type learning as many of most all of a lot of technical learning takes place mostly through reference and application as you learned in your school listening to lectures and doing assignments. With leadership learning, it’s different. It comes certainly through reference and lectures, but it also comes through discussion. Is a great way for adults to learn, especially leadership. And in the training we do, and we’re doing both online training and in-person training. Maybe the part of that training that people enjoy the most or the discussions they say, that’s where they really learn just by sharing their own perspective, hearing from others, discussing certain topics or scenarios.

And so we’ve gotten great feedback about the discussion portions of our training, and that’s what with the program, whether it’s an open program with people from different companies or a company specific program these what Alexander calls mastermind sessions where whether it’s in the in-person training and we’ll have table discussions, or in the open program we’ll have.

A discussion every other week to talk about a topic, to talk about an assignment, and some of the feedback we’ve gotten back. I would say most of it is just really positive on the masterminds. To quote one person, they’ll say that’s where the magic happens. So that’s where they really start to, to integrate these ideas and hear other perspectives. And they really start to, the students really start to solidify their thinking around, around the different leadership topics.

[00:34:19] Alexander: Yeah. Yeah. So these masterminds are nine one hour calls over the complete program so that we can dive into, the different parts of the program really deeply. Yeah. Thanks so much.

[00:34:35] Gary: Lemme say one, one last thing, and this goes back to your comparison to technical training As a technical statistician, you didn’t learn by listening to a leadership talk once every two months. You learned by investing almost daily. And I think the same thing is true about leadership training and that’s why we developed this course so that people could invest a period of time, at least to get them to a point where we can talk about the ways to be a good student of leadership.

And so that’s why I would ask people to think about that, that if you’re just investing a little bit every few months it may not be enough. It’s probably not gonna. It’s gonna help you make a real step change. So that’s the value of this type of training.

[00:35:16] Alexander: Yep, absolutely you get a boost in terms of your leadership career and you’ll have a very different understanding about leadership after taking this training.

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