An Encouragement For Introverted Leaders

August 16, 2013 — 2 Comments

photo: Creative Commons, Gabriel Crispino

Introverted leaders are often made to feel like they don’t have what it takes to lead well. I know this because I am an introverted leader, and because I’ve watched many of my friends struggle to find their place as introverts in the leadership realm.

Here’s the thing. Introverts are not just capable of being great leaders. Leadership needs introverts. Great leadership can’t exist without the skills introverts bring to the table.

Before I give the encouragement I have for introverts, I need to say this: If you haven’t read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, go online and order a copy right now. If you don’t read anything else this year, read that. Regardless if you’re an introvert or an extrovert, Cain’s research will help you understand why we tend to favor extroverted personalities, and what we’re missing when we don’t allow introverts to express their values.

Introverts — we need your perspective in church!

If you’re an introvert, and you don’t love speaking up in small group Bible studies, or in church staff meetings, that’s okay. But please know that what you have to say is important, and when you don’t share, we miss out. That doesn’t mean you have to be someone you’re not. I just want to make sure you know your perspective is less valuable, even when you’re hesitant to share it.

Extroverts can make it easier for introverts by giving more quiet think time before moving on from an idea. Extroverts might think of this time as “dead” or even awkward, but introverts need this time in order to formulate their thoughts.

Extroverts can also help introverts by inviting them to share their ideas, even when they don’t readily offer them.

But introverts — speak up! Your ideas are important, and you are allowed to share without being asked.

Also, be present. You don’t have to mimic extroverted leaders, but we need you to show up.

As an introvert, you’ll lead in a different way than extroverts lead. Chances are, it will be a little quieter, with a little less fanfare. But your method of leadership isn’t second best. It’s not a cop out. Your introversion is not a defect. It’s an asset. You need to start to see it that way.

As an introvert, you will lead with actions first, words second. This is a good thing.

As an introvert, you are likely a good listener. This is a good thing.

As an introvert, you are probably highly empathic. This is a good thing.

These qualities make you more than just a good leader. They make you a great leader. But until you believe that to be true about yourself, you’ll shy away from opportunities to exercise your leadership skills, or you’ll waste your time trying to become an extroverted leader. Please don’t underestimate the power you have as an introverted leader, and please be willing to show up and lead.

Lastly, please know this is worth the fight.

It is worth the fight to discover what it looks like to lead well as an introvert. Our culture favors extroverts, even trusts them more, so this conversation can get uncomfortable. But the conversation is worth having because everyone benefits when introverts get to live in their strengths.

You have what it takes to be a great leader. Be willing to forge new territory with me and demonstrate how affective introverted leaders can be.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? What unique quality do you think introverts bring to leadership?

2 responses to An Encouragement For Introverted Leaders

  1. I always thought introverts were just shy and afraid to speak up because of being unsure of their reception. Is this true or is it that they think thru things first before voiceing their thought.

    I think I’m an extrovert. I expect people to like me, because I like people, therefore I am not afraid to ask a stranger their opinion or advice.

    The only time that didn’t work was when I was young and really liked a particular girl. Then I was afraid to talk; that’s where my fear theory comes in.

    For my part: we need more leaders because at this point it looks like we have too many “politicains” in the church and in business and in government who are mostly interested in themselves rather than taking the “high road”.

  2. I am mostly an introverted leader, but I do love to speak / teach. It’s probably my one extroverted tendency in leadership. It’s so important to have introverted leaders in the church. We tend to keep the extroverted leaders from making leadership all about a personality over the truth, which can quickly happen with an extroverted leader.

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