Introvert Leaders

Can introverts really be great leaders?

I ask, because I like to believe I’m both but sometimes I think my introvert gets in the way of me being a great leader.

Sometimes I have no relational energy left for others.  I become short.  I get distant.  I have no desire to be needed or to be responsible for providing direction.  I simply want to be left alone.  I long to get lost in a few hours or a few days of just me, my thoughts and God.

That doesn’t sound like a good leader does it?

Leaders should love to be with people.  That’s what they do.  Right?

As my leadership responsibilities have increased I’ve found the tension growing between my introvert and my leadership instincts.  More leadership influence has required more time out front, with people, providing coaching and direction.  But it’s also resulted in less quiet time, alone time, think time.  This tension has made me more aware of my need to be tuned in to what rejuvenates me.  I recognize my limitations as a leader.  I wrestle with my selfish desires to get away and my God-given responsibilities to lead.

Leadership is marked by sacrifice.  Others must become more important than my selfish desires or my comfort.

I’m comfortable in quiet.  It brings me peace and rest.

The grey issue for my introvert leader is making sense of when my longing to escape is just a selfish desire or a real issue of self care.

What’s your greatest leadership tension?

If  you’re an introvert leader, how do you balance your need for quiet with the demands of leadership?

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  • Eric October 19, 2011  

    That’s a great question. You pretty much described my dilemma and frustration as well. I’ve learned that I have to sometimes wake up earlier and to steal (schedule) time away. Working in a mega church and having a growing family can be a lot but I’ve learned my personality and so has my wife. I know when I need a few minutes to get my head together so that I don’t kill someone! (Just kidding….maybe!) My wife helps me in this area because she is an extrovert and loves people. It’s a balancing act. Some days I’m good at it and some days I’m not.

    • Jenni Catron October 19, 2011  

      Sounds like we’re wired similarly, Eric.

  • Andy Depuy October 19, 2011  

    Being a leader and taking time out for God is hard but sometimes we must let the people we lead do it on their own and take the time for God to lead you and for you to spend that time just God and you. The thing will be amazing that the people you are leading are being lead by God and doing exactly what you needed them to do. So my prayer today is that you will be alone with God and listen to Him and also just seat back and watch the people you lead, do the things you wanted them to do without any instructions cause they are being led by the Father that leads all of us.

  • Sherie October 19, 2011  

    Absolutely they can be great leaders. I recently read Introverts in the Church. It was a great book! It is not just a personality issue, we actually have different chemicals running through our bodies, and flowing through our brains in different ways. My biggest tension is living up to the expectations that others have for me. They expect me to be an extrovert like they are, but I have learned that I have a wonderful opportunity to teach them about introverts. One of the things I am learning it to be really honest with myself about my needs, and to take the time when I need the time. Also, to serve in the best roles for me. My current pastor keeps wanting to delegate administrative tasks to me and won’t let me be with people. It is killing me. I may be introverted, but I thrive with people not tasks. I need to be empowered to serve in my gifts and passions and help others to understand that what they perceive may just be that I am a different energy level than they have.

    • Jenni Catron October 19, 2011  

      Sherie, I need to read that book!

  • Bradsj October 20, 2011  

    My suspicion is that there was an introvert within Jesus. He had Hos extroverted moments for sure. Yet, often, we find Him getting away from the crowds–at times intentionally avoiding them. It’s the both/and of giving and receiving. Replenishing and Expending. And leading from an introverted, yet loving and giving heart.

    • Jenni Catron October 19, 2011  

      So true, Brad. Thank you for your thoughts.

  • Michael Warden October 20, 2011  

    In my experience coaching leaders, I generally find that introverts actually make better leaders than their extroverted counterparts. They tend to be more self-aware, more conscious of other’s needs and perspectives, and don’t easily get caught in the trap of “needing” public praise and attention in order to feel okay about themselves. The

    • Jenni Catron October 19, 2011  

      That’s great perspective Michael. Thank you!

  • Melissa October 20, 2011  

    This sounds a lot like our conversation a couple of weeks ago.  I am struggling with this issue right now as I continue to grow in my leadership roles.  I will let you know what works when I figure it out.  : ) Great post.  

  • Lindsey Nobles October 20, 2011  

    In my transition, I’m still trying to figure out when to speak and when to listen. When to trust my instincts and when to rely on other’s experience. When to elbow my way in and when to just walk away. 

  • Jill Crew October 20, 2011  

    Wow, I completely relate to this post!  After four weekend services I am completely spent emotionally and relationally.  I would say my greatest tension is that that my church has a “cubical land” office environment and it is not necessary friendly to working offsite… so I haven’t figured out how to refuel with people all around me.  I would love to hear how others get refueled in a cubical workspace!

    • Tiffanie Shanks (@tashanks) October 21, 2011  

      I work in a cubical environment where, even though it is possible to work offsite, it is highly discouraged unless there is an offsite commitment (meeting/site visit/etc.). I have had to FORCE myself to take a true “lunch break” alone where I physically leave the office. 

      • Jill Crew October 22, 2011  

        Tiffanie, sounds like we work in a very similar environment.  My babysitter couldn’t come on Friday and I got to work at home.  I can’t tell you how much it helped me getting out of the office and just having some quiet.  I need to find a way to get away because it really does fill me back up.

  • Tiffanie Shanks (@tashanks) October 21, 2011  

    I am a relational leader who also happens to be introverted and a morning person. What I’ve discovered that means in my life is that there is a difference between motivators and energizers. I am motivated by investing in the value of people through interaction but I am energized by time alone and away. The balancing act comes through self-awareness and being exceptionally intentional about my schedule. On office days, my mornings are spent alone with my thoughts, Bible, computer and task list, and my afternoons usually include at least one meeting (typically two or three) that allows me to see the worth of my work. When I’m leading at conferences or large events for days at a time, I schedule a day without any commitments when I return; most often this takes delegation. During the event there is usually some moment when I am not needed to be in the limelight. I capitalize on that as an opportunity to get away. I struggle at times with thinking that I need to be seen at a moment when I really don’t need to be seen. If I can overcome that “need to be everywhere and doing everything” then I can always find space to re-energize my soul even in the midst of chaos.