Can An Introvert Be a Leader?

I have a confession to make. I, Eric Clapp, am an introvert.

Whew! That feels good to get off of my chest. There seems to be a bias toward extroverted people in positions of leadership. If you’re a leader, people just assume you love to talk to people all of the time. I find this to be particularly true in ministry settings. With five worship services a weekend, in some cases, the social demands of that kind of work for an introvert can be quite taxing. For awhile I wrestled with the question of whether I should be a pastor at all. You have to deal with an awful lot of people if you’re going to be a pastor.

But, alas, here I am. A pastor. And doing okay at it. Maybe it’s because I have this writing as my outlet of ideas, the pressure release, of sorts, for my introversion. As an introvert (and a 3 on the Enneagram scale), I found it would be best if I made a plan. So before I started my internship I made a list of 5 goals to help me learn about leadership from the perspective of an introvert.

1. Schedule downtime. — For at least one hour everyday, I shut everything down and read. That’s my re-charge time. And if I don’t actively schedule it, it can so easily fall by the wayside. That’s my “me” time.

2. When planning meetings, plan to break them up as to avoid one, long period of sitting and talking. — Being the intern, I don’t plan too many meetings. More the attendee. But when I do, or even when I’m planning something like a confirmation class, I break it up into smaller segments so it’s not as exhausting.

3. Be self-aware. — The one bad thing about being an introvert in a social setting is that it can often be interpreted as me being an uninterested jerk. Not the case. Self-awareness is key in so many things, but it’s specifically key for making sure you are not being perceived as something you don’t intend to be.

4. Don’t feel pressure to be constantly social in large group gatherings. Listen first. Speak later. — Listening is a pretty rare art in public discourse these days. Introverts can be very successful leaders because they spend a lot of time observing their surroundings and listening to what people say. This has the capability of giving a pretty unique perspective.

5. When your reaching your limit, feel free to take a walk. — Whenever I feel myself up against the threshold of my social limit, I have found that taking a walk can be the best way to get an immediate re-charge if it isn’t time for the hour of downtime. Just the movement and quiet of taking a walk can help reconnect and debrief, particularly during a long day of meetings.

So can an introvert lead? Absolutely! Does it take some pretty intentional work? Yes, it does. But I think in the end, there are some special gifts that are highlighted in introverts that have the ability to make very quality leaders.

I want to say feel free to join the conversation, but being a fellow introvert, it’s completely okay if you don’t. I understand.

Cheers,
Eric

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Comments

  1. I have a couple friends who have sent me great articles that coincide with this one as well. Just to further the resource pool, here they are.

    “Long Live the Introvert!” — http://ollinmorales.wordpress.com/2011/10/19/introvert/
    “10 Myths About Introverts” — http://www.carlkingdom.com/10-myths-about-introverts

    Enjoy!

  2. Hi Eric,
    Being an INFP in a fairly people-intensive role, I could relate to and appreciate this post. Thanks for writing it. I agree, we introverts have much to offer, and a lot of our contributions originate in the lost art of listening. πŸ™‚

    • Hi Katie. Thanks for commenting. I’m an INFP as well. It’s great to know there are more of us around. Even if we don’t always feel like talking with each other πŸ™‚

  3. I have been told that every strong leaders, especially leaders who transform and change civic institutions (like churches), are introverts. Much of that comes from an amazing capacity to reflect…which is something many extroverts need to work on (especially if you are an ENTP, like myself).

Please keep your comments positive. I reserve the right to delete rude or insulting comments. If your comment is critical, please make sure it is also constructive. Thank you.

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