Are you an introvert? If so, you've probably felt like you don't belong in leadership. Every time we look around, we see all these vibrant, outgoing, go-getting personalities who take over rooms and can navigate a crowd mingling with everyone. And if you're an introvert, hearing that description may make you shrink in your chair. But introverts make great leaders, even in positions where you might not expect to find many introverts. A major obstacle that introverts have to overcome in leadership is that there are myths about leaders who happen to be introverts. Here are three examples:
1. Introverts aren't "People People" - Leaders who are introverted recognize that it's important to be around people, but what makes them an introvert is that they naturally recharge with a book, on a walk, or on a long ride home by themselves. You can't be an effective leader without engaging with people on a heart level, but at the same time don't expect introverts to do small talk or "cocktail party" conversations, leaders who are introverts will build into people extremely well because they value close relationships.
2. Introverts lack enthusiasm - If you are looking for someone to be a cheerleader and do toe-touches will cheering on an initiative, find a former gymnast, not an introverted leader. Introverts are incredibly passionate about the things they believe in, but their emotions are often in check because of their reserved nature. Introverts make great supporters because they are consistent, faithful, and will be there to give support personally. Don't mistake their reserved demeanor for a lack of passion or excitement.
3. Introverts don't have "Stage Presence" - Many introverts who find themselves in leadership have trained themselves to be able to flip a switch in order to do the job they have been assigned. Introverts can be incredibly dynamic and captivating in front of a large crowd, but just like a cheetah who can reach 70 mph for short distances, introverted leaders need time afterward to decompress. Introverted leaders who have a passion for a subject or who have a job that requires a public persona (pastor, business leader, salesman, etc.) are adept at learning how to work around their personality type--so all those books they read pay off after all!
If you're an introverted person who has leadership skills, don't be discouraged. You can do great things in leadership because of your introvert tendencies--you process information well, you build a small group of trusted friends, and you don't get caught up in FOMO so you have your life priorities in line. But you can't let your natural wiring be a handicap or excuse for not actively fulfilling your calling as a leader. Work around your weaknesses, surround yourself with people who can supplement you, and take advantage of that stack of books you're reading to learn ways to be more engaging with people.
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.