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Why introverts make great leaders - Mark Metry [Interview]

Why introverts make great leaders - Mark Metry [Interview]

July 24, 2023

About Mark Metry

Why introverts make great leaders - Mark Metry [Interview]

Mark Metry is the bestselling author of “Screw being Shy”. He’s a Forbes featured Keynote speaker and Global Top 100 Humans podcast show host. He is an international TEDx keynote speaker at conferences, schools, and Fortune 500 companies.

His  Life’s work has been featured in Forbes, Influencive, Inc, Huffington Post, Fearless Motivation, and a lot more. We are extremely happy and honored to have him on our interview series today.

Sumitha Mariyam

Why introverts make great leaders - Mark Metry [Interview]

We have the pleasure of welcoming Mark Metry today to our interview series. I am Sumitha Mariyam from the peopleHum team. before we begin just a quick introduction of peopleHum. peopleHum is an end-to-end, one-view, integrated human capital management automation platform, the winner of the 2019 global Codie Award for HCM that is specifically built for crafted employee experiences and the future of work.

We run the peopleHum blog and video channel which receives upwards of 200,000 visitors a year and publish around 2 interviews with well-known names globally, every month.


Welcome, Mark. We're thrilled to have you.


Thank you so much for having me. I’m super excited. 


That's awesome.

So Mark moving on to the interview and the first question I have for you. You had quite a journey and a lot of transformation over the years. So we would like to know a little bit about it. And, you know, like we can't leave out the bit about your books a little bit about screw being shy. 


Yeah, of course. I live on the East coast of the United States, and my parents came to this country from Egypt a couple of years before I was born, and they came to America with $200 in their pocket. They didn't know how to speak English. As I remember, growing up in America, my early years were very sort of humble beginnings. And by the time I was about 10 years old, I began to develop social anxiety because we had mostly lived in the more dense inner city at the beginning part of our lives.

But as my parents got better jobs, we moved out and we moved to a small town that had, like, 5000 people and the really interesting part about this town was that there was no racial diversity. So, everybody, there was white except for me. And so also, at this time in America, this was post 9/11 where if you were Middle Eastern or anything like that, people would call you a terrorist and so I definitely experienced a lot of racism, a lot of abuse, physical, mental and that just kind of made me just fall into a socially anxious state of mind for a long period of my life.

And during that time, though, I was still starting businesses. I was on the Internet, I was making websites. I was doing a lot of different things and so the really interesting part about that is when I was about 18, I went on this journey to basically restart my life. And when I was 18, I was obese.  I was over 200 pounds. I was depressed. I couldn't get out of bed. I was partying. I was drinking a lot of alcohol.

At one point, I was socially isolating myself, and I was even suicidal for a period of time. And eventually, it was that version of me hitting rock bottom. That eventually enabled me to just totally try to change my life and blow up my life from a mental, physical, and emotional, and spiritual health standpoint. And, you know, that's what led me to start the businesses that I run today.

That's what led me to start my top 100 podcasts. Humans 2.0. I know that's what's led me to be on Amazon Prime documentary series called the Social Movement. That's what's led me to advise startups, nonprofits to just do a lot of cool things from writing my book screw being shy, which really just shows someone how if they realize that they are a shy person and they don't want to be shy anymore. This is the book for someone to read if they want to truly be their authentic Selves in front of everyone. And so, yeah, that's a little bit about my story. 


Yeah, that's an amazing story on, you know, as we're talking about ‘Screw being shy’. I saw this one point that is very relevant today that is that in your book. So you know, how would you help the young generation of today to have a long-lasting motivation for their existence? 


Yeah, well, I think the first thing that is really important to understand is that you know, I can't speak for every country on the planet because everywhere is different. But I mean, if you have been born in America or some other Western country, of course, there are terrible areas, you know, they're just like in every country, there are good places, there are not so good places.

And the reality is that a lot of us have just not really understood real human nature in the sense of like, you know, for example, this virus of what's going on with COVID, I think that's really showing us how fragile human life can be and how fragile human society can be. And the reality is like, you know, of course, there are people out there who have certain issues. I'm not trying to discount that, but I would say for them, for a lot of people out there that live in developed Western countries, there are no real issues like That's just the reality, you know like there are new issues.

There are modern issues like there are nuanced issues because of our society, for sure. But the reality is is that our brains, our human bodies are these organisms that have been moving in the same way for thousands of years, and all of a sudden, now we have access to technology. We have access to social media.

We have access to get any food delivered to our door. We have access to accessing foods that didn't even exist 50 years ago. Unfortunately, this fragile narrative of society isn't real and it doesn't motivate people. And that's why you get a lot of young people who have no drive for life. And it's not because there's something wrong with them. It's because the rules that they're told by their parents, by their society, by the culture are just very, very fragile. And they don't work for everybody.

And so for me, when I was growing up, I had no motivation to do anything, and the reality is part of that comes with you following your truth. Part of that comes with you being the real you, your real purpose, and if you live in a society that is very oppressive. So, for example, I'm from the Middle East. The Middle East is very oppressive towards groups of people. It's not very open. We're told to not talk about certain ideas, like mental health or shame or guilt or our sexuality.

The reality is that it harms a lot of people. And so part of having that motivation is are you actually living your own life? Are you actually doing and talking about the things that you're talking about? Then the other half of motivation has to do with your biochemistry. It has to do with the different neurons and neurotransmitters and brain chemicals that are being secreted in your brain.

And that is largely a product of how well you sleep at night. That has to do with how well you manage your stress levels. You know, like every time you get stressed, do you yell?, Do you get mad? Do you drink some alcohol, or do you just try to meditate and do yoga? And the other part of that, too, is with your food. I remember for me when I was growing up, I was just I was eating any kind of snack. I was eating dessert for breakfast, And the reality is a lot of people, at least in America now it's sort of catching on.

But a lot of people in America think that the food that you eat is harmless, and just because it comes in a bright-colored bag means that it's safe for kids. And the reality is that you know, here in America, if you look at, for example, like a study that was done by the Bill Gates Foundation, the number one cause of death in Western developed countries is your dietary choices. And so when it comes to motivation when it comes to your energy when it comes to how you wake up in the morning, mostly all that has to do with the food that you put in your body.

And so when it comes to motivation, when it comes to your energy, when it comes to how you wake up in the morning, mostly all that has to do with the food that you put in your body

And the reality is not simple because there's no such thing as a universal, healthy diet. There's no such thing as everyone should be vegan or everyone should be keto or everyone should be this. That doesn't exist. But one thing that we do know for certain is that if you eat artificially, processed chemicals, foods that come in bags, junk food that's not good for your brain and that causes you do not have motivation.

Happy to get more into it if you want to. But those are the two sides that I see of motivation.
1) Are you actually living in the truth of your being, of your character?
2) What is the biochemistry of your body and your brain look like? 


That's wonderful. I mean, that's really an eye-opener for an answer. And you know while you connect all of these parts together? I think it makes a lot of sense that way, you know like you have to have this and that. So if you don't have that find balance and you just have one in plenty, that that's of no use Oh, yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And thank you so much for that answer. Yeah, and you know, let's move on to you know, the leadership part of it. 

I have this question for you, do you think you can stay an introvert and still lead a lot of people? 


It's great this is such a great question. I'm so glad you asked so it's really interesting, right? So when I came out with my book, screw being shy. You know, a lot of people told me like, "Hey, Mark, what's wrong with being a shy person" or "Hey, Mark, you know, is that the same as being an introvert?" And if so, who cares if people are shy and they're introverts?

And the reality is that society just has a lot of misconceptions around what these words even mean. So if you look at the psychology definition for what being an introvert means, being an introvert is someone who the way that their brain works is that they're predominantly focused on there inside thoughts, their emotions, their feelings that seem their internal world. And they're more introspective inside, whereas an extrovert is the opposite. And so nowhere in the definition of being introvert actually means that you're shy or you're afraid to talk to people. And so when you actually look at it, most leaders are introverts.

You know there's great power in being an extrovert. They’re just two different kinds of leadership styles, and there isn't a form of leadership that's better than another, but most leaders that I know are introverts. Like that's just the reality of it. And then when it comes to like being shy, being shy is a totally natural human emotion.

You know there's great power in being an extrovert. They’re just two different kinds of leadership styles, and there isn't a form of leadership that's better than another, but most leaders that I know are introverts.

That's okay for someone to experience every once in a while. And what I mean by that is, if you do something new for the first time, you go outside of your comfort zone, you might meet new people. It's OK to be shy for like the first 30 minutes, or the first hour of being in that new environment, that's totally normal. However, there are people who have social anxiety, which is basically you are shy all the time. And no matter what you do, you can't be shy even in front of like your friends and family.

And the real issue is that those people who are actually suffering from this mental health problem of having social anxiety are being labeled as introverts, and they're being labeled as being shy when in reality those two are completely separate things. And so to answer your question, yeah, it's totally okay to be an introverted leader because most of them are but can you be a shy leader. I don't know about that. Can you be a socially anxious leader?

Definitely not. and so it's okay to realize that you have these things because there are proven ways for you to manage these and maybe even heal and get past these, you know like I had. I was the worst socially anxious, shy introvert ever. Like. I couldn't even talk to people. I couldn't even make direct eye contact. And yet today, you know, I'm invited to speak in front of, like, 1000 people before this whole COVID thing, Of course. So it is very possible to get out of it, so, yeah, you can be an introverted leader. 


Yeah, that's a fantastic onset. Now, I'm glad that I asked it because, you know, it's a holy, fresh perspective.

And my next question would be related to young people who've been planning on establishing a career this year, maybe starting May or April, and, you know, they just stuck because of the pandemic. But what advice would you have to give them? 


This is a great question. So, you know, just before this call, I was actually having a conversation about this with my friend. And the reality is that you know, for example personally, for me, I'm not stuck because of what's going on. And that's because 4-5 years ago, I realized the situation that I was in, I was in. I was 18 I was in college and I was like, This is not gonna work for me.

As simple as that and that was based on my own personality or whether was based on my goals, I don't know. But the reality is that you don't own your job. Unfortunately, that's the case, and I don't mean to say that in, like, a harsh way, but the reality is you don't own your job. Whether you've been doing it for, you're about to do it. You're about to do it for two years, three years, four years, five years. But for example, what I'm doing today, I own it.

I don't mean to say that to, like, make myself superior in front of people or anything like that. It's just the fact that what I'm doing is an extremely resilient strategy. If you actually want to make it your career in the long term, and what I'm talking about is building your personal brand. What I'm talking about is creating an online version of yourself to where you can scale your message, your products, your service online.

And there's a lot of different ways I could go with this. But this, for me, is where Linkedln has been extremely, extremely powerful. I got on Linkedln maybe towards the end of 2017 and I got more serious about it in 2018 and I mean, it's completely changed my life. I mean, some of the posts that I make get millions of views on Linkedln. 75% of my business comes from Linkedln.

An amazing way I grew my podcast was from Linkedln. And so today Linkedln makes me a ton of money and helps me to scale my message, my movement, my career, and ultimately I'm untouchable. I'm invincible, you know, unless like Linkedln shuts down, there's no way. And the reality is even if that happens, I still have my podcast. I still have my email lists. I still have my Instagram and I can still sell. I can still make money. I can still reach people for these things.

And so if you catch yourself and you're like, Hey, I thought I was supposed to have this career I thought I was supposed to have this job, and now nothing is working. I think that's the time for you to start looking at the long term. And the reality is whether it's another virus. Whether you get fired, whether your industry shuts down because of exponential technology replacing it.

This is going to keep happening to people. And one way to not make yourself a commodity is by branding yourself is by creating a reason for people to follow you and put you in a group because you're actually valuable and you actually contribute value in their lives. And so what I would say the people are for more tactical things.

If you go to my Linkedln, connect with me on Linkedln, look at my posts. I talk about this all the time because this is so important and a lot of people because I'm young. I'm 22. A lot of people follow me because they see me on Linkedln and I have, like 75,000 followers or something and I'm young and I'm still crushing it. And it's not the fact that I'm special. It's not the fact that, like I'm super talented, it's not the fact that I'm special any kind of way. It's just the fact that I try my best to do it every single day

I’m 22. I have, like 75,000 followers, I’m young and I’m still crushing it. And it’s not the fact that I’m special or I’m super talented. It’s just the fact that I try my best to do it every single day.

I have a Linkedln course that teaches people how to do this. I make posts on how people can learn and how to do this themselves all the time. But yeah, I mean, if I like, for example, if you were going to get a job as a software developer, for example, and all of a sudden you don't have a job anymore or you don't get into that job because of what's happening.

What I would start doing is I would start sharing what is the most valuable thing that I can talk about right now for people like me to look at and gain value from. So if I was a software developer, I would literally be like, Hey, guys, you know, I know it's hard for software developers. A lot of us have been laid off or a lot of us don't really have jobs right now. Here are three ways that I am finding ways to supplement my income as a software developer.

Number one I've started to freelance on websites like up work and fiver. Number two is I've started to message different people here on Linkedln, different recruiters in this industry. Number three. I've started to make my own business, and I'm starting to make take on different side projects myself. You can make another post. That's as Hey, guys, if you're a software developer, here are 19 companies that are still hiring for software developers. Amazon, Google, YouTube.

Eventually, what you do is you become a person of so much value that people don't have a choice but to follow you. And the next time that you come out with some sort of a service or product, if they're interested, then they buy that from you. You do that enough times, and now you have a real value, a credible business that is not really dependent on any kind of other company or any kind of other jobs.

And so that's what I would say, build your personal brand because the reality is, is when the future of work is gonna play out the way it is in the next 10-15-20 years, there's gonna be nothing but your brand left. 


That's an added perspective to the answer and it just changed the whole direction to it. And I really love your answer to that. And, you know, let's say the focus to a whole different thing on.

And as we have a lot of remote workers for every single organization right now we have the whole buzz about, you know, mental health and counseling people who are working from home and facing a lot of stress.
So if you want to advise organizations on how to handle that situation on how to keep your employees engaged as well as mentally healthy at the same time, what would you tell them? 


Yeah, it's a great question. What I would say is that you need to understand the reality of being a human being, you need to understand the reality of human beings working at home in the sense of like right now if you look at the world's best companies. Generally speaking, they're starting to realize this, and they're starting to change the way that they do things in the sense of  I have friends of mine that work at Google, and they tell me that there are no hours that you have to work like there's no you have to clock in at nine and then from 12 and then from 1 to 5.

No, it's literally like just do your work, finish these things Whether it takes you an hour go for whether it takes you six hours to go for it. I have other friends of mine that are working at companies where they're doing something. I forget what it's called, But like every Friday, there are no meetings, and every Friday they could do whatever they want.

And so I think the reality is just understanding like that we're all going through a really interesting period of our lives right now, and I know that, like, you know, I have friends of mine that are teachers at public schools, and they told everyone and like they're doing the whole virtual learning on Zoom. And they told everyone that they're gonna pass them no matter what, no one's failing. And so I mean, there has to be a certain level of just understanding because the reality is, is what we're going through is extremely hard. And, of course, like, you know, some of us are more fortunate than others.

But we're going through is a very traumatic experience that we're all going through. And we can make the best of that. We have to have an understanding because the reality is that companies who screw people over after this is over, they’re going to be the ones that are screwed. Nobody's gonna wanna work for them anymore. Like there is this whole gym chain here in America in New York City called Equinox.

And it's a very kind of high end, kind of luxurious gym and I had a friend of mine who was working there, and she worked with them from January until February. And so this was even before the whole COVID then, and they were gonna pay her in March, and then when this thing, this whole COVID thing happened, they sent out a letter saying, We're not going to pay anybody for the previous times and so that clear it there that gym is going to shut down their CEO is going to get fired like something is gonna happen as a result of that.

So I think the reality is the companies that don't prioritize this, People are going to remember, 10-15 years from now. And that is really how you create a long-lasting empire. That's how you create a legacy. That's how you create clients, employees that work, and are dedicated and are loyal you know. And so that's one part of it. I said the other part of it, too, is having some sort of scheduled programming for your employees.

For example, I was just I got hired by this company and in Amsterdam, that has, like, 9000 employees. And they got me on, like, their virtual system and basically what they said to their employees like, Hey, guys, today we have bestselling author Mark And if you guys want to learn how to decrease your anxiety at home, come attend this session for an hour.

If you have space in between your work and in between your meetings. And so companies that are prioritizing the sort of extracurricular they're spending the money to have programming for their employees and their employees all like are doing something together. That's not just work-related. That is again, how you foster connection, you know because the reality is like I can’t imagine what this quarantine was like if we didn't have the Internet.

Like if we couldn't talk to people, just us Oh, my God, I’m pretty sure I would have lost it by now. And so the reality that the fact that we have this is so important for employers and companies to take advantage of it and not just work-related to I think that's the other big thing too. If your employer just views you from the perspective in the mindset of like, this is just business. Business is business. We just have to work together. This, this and that.

You're not really creating a family, you know, and I think that's a big part of it, too. Like I talked to all the staff members that work for me every single day, and I talked to them about things that have nothing to do with work because that's what's called being a human being as a part of and just checking in on employees, even though this time it's hard for everyone from business owners to CEOs to managers, it's hard for all of us.

But the reality is you checking up on your employees too. Like you asking them how you can help them from a non-business perspective is best and having those one-on-one conversations to understand, like does someone want less work right now? Does someone want more work right now because they need the money?

And so just realizing each individual person's needs is like that. You know you're gonna have people who work for you who let's say the money for them is not really that big of an issue, and they would rather work less to spend more time with their family or on their side hustle. And there's gonna be other people who would wanna work more to make more money. And so, really, at the end of the day, you have to have these conversations with people, and you have to make them family.

You have to care about them from a non-business perspective as well because that is how you gain loyal employees and also clients too and like the end of the day, the people who work for you, that's who interact with your clients and your clients can tell. And so it all is sort of this encompassing thing. Then at the end of the day, it doesn't really have anything to do with, like, this silo definition that we talked about of, like, mental health like this is just a human being, have their brain and their mind functions.

We all have brains and minds and mental health, and we have to have compassion for it. And we have to do it. Like, for example, I know. I'm not sure what the cases in India are but here in America, you could walk outside. You just can't go anywhere basically inside unless it's like a grocery store or so on and so forth, at least in most dense areas, like where I live. And so for me in the afternoon, I go on a walk with my team and I tell everyone to also go for a walk too because, I mean, obviously, if they don't want to, they don't have to.

But going for a walk is just great because if you're stuck inside, then that's very bad for your mental health. And, you know, the reality is, if you don't have access to going outside, I was actually on a podcast where someone was in some country in Europe and they weren't allowed to go outside. And she was telling me that. And I told her to every day, open her window and stick her face outside for, like, 10-15 minutes minimum because the sunlight is so beneficial to you.

You could even go for a walk inside your house, even your apartment. Like when I was living in an apartment with some of my friends here in Boston. The snow that we get is brutal, and so one time we literally had snow that was like, three feet and we couldn't go outside. And so I little just started walking around my living room. Sure, I looked like a crazy person, but at the end of the day, like you have to move, you have to move your body because it's so important, especially regards to mental health. So I hope some of those things I said were useful. 


Yeah, that's definitely useful. Large organizations are going to be answerable to a lot of, you know, other organizations after this is over because they have to treat their employees, right? Right? And right, thanks to zoom for all these meetings and all of that. 

So, you know, I'm just still kind of wrap up the interview process. If you have any other you know, important soundbites that you would like to know your audience. 


You know, I think the main thing that I just want to say is that I think the main thing that I've learned honestly, like last year like 2019 was really a year, where I kind of felt like I made it in the sense of like, my level of success and I experienced has so many experiences with, a lot of amazing people that it really made me have this belief of, You never know how much you can do and who you can become in one year.

But then also, you're not gonna be able to change your life and like, create some crazy thing in only one-year. So it's this paradox and personally, for me, I've been on my journey for the last 4-5 years and there have been so many times where it's been brutal, where I honestly just wanted to sit down and cry where I felt like I was completely alone.

And those were different mistakes. Those were different failures, those different ups, and downs. But then also, I have seen myself put in the work for like, a year like last year. 2019 was one of them where it made my career. It's how it got me to this position to where I am today. And so it's like this contrast that each person used to have in mind of like, Hey, if you're gonna start something new, you need to have the patience of being able to realize you're not gonna like, make it in one year.

But then also never underestimate how far you can go in a year. because as the wheels turn, as you meet more people, eventually you will have years that will change who you are. You'll have months like for example, I felt like last, like at the beginning of this year, January and February. I was like, really working hard to get my book to launch that came out in March and I put in so much work and I felt like I literally grew like two years in those two months.

And so and then Now, because of what's happening, it feels like it's some weird some, like weird experiment that, like we're all in together and nobody really has an idea of how long this is gonna end in and so on and so forth. And so, yeah, that's what I would say. So don't underestimate yourself. But then also have that patience and you've got to focus your mental health.

You know, I have a lot of who will tell me that. Say, Mark, how do you work on your patience? You know, I'm so impatient. Want this thing to happen. The way you do that is by working on your mental health, you know, on This is where things like meditation can come into play. You know, there's this Buddhist proverb that's if you think meditating for 10 minutes is long, then you need to sit down and meditate for 30 minutes.

And it's basically this idea of, like, a lot of us high performers, a lot of us people who are very ambitious and motivated we’re like, Oh my God, we're gonna do this, We got to do that. We've got to do this. This, this, this, this and that And the reality is that that can be good. But too much of that can destroy your mental health.

That's the reality of it. And so you have to have this balance of being patient, and the way you do that is by working on your mental health and other areas of your health. And as you do that, you will realize that you're still able to put in the work while also being patient. And so if you do that, you know everyone's journeys different but 1-2-3-4-5 years down the road, you could be in a spot whether that's in your personal life or in your professional life, that is completely different from what it is today.

And you could look back on right now during this whole COVID era and be like, You know what? I was quarantined, but I frickin made something and I put one foot forward and five years later, you're successful because of what you did versus a lot of people who are just trying to distract themselves and escape from life.

Right now and again, we have to have compassion. We're all going through a lot today, and so I know for myself this stuff. It has not been the easiest time. But having these two kinds of things in mind, I think can really help someone out. 


Well, that's wonderful. And my talking to you has been fantastic because you have these notes for every single question, and that's really going to help a lot of our audience out there. It has totally been a living and learning and enriching experience for me, and I think it is going to be for the audience to, and we're so happy that you came to interview series and gave us a part of your time and a lot of your energy. Thank you so much. And you have a healthy and safe time ahead of you and have a great day. 


Yeah, of course. I mean, I have a podcast of 500 episodes. I wrote a book. So it's very easy for me to talk about these things. I appreciate this is a great interview. 


Thank you so much.

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