Leading as an Introvert


[Today's post is by Mike Davis. Mike is the creative director for the Leader Training and Resources team at North Point Ministries. In his role, he helps to create the resources and events that support adult ministry leaders at all of our Atlanta-area campuses.—Ed.]

We live in a world convinced that extroverts make the best leaders. Think about the qualities you associate with leadership—charisma, a take-charge attitude, an abundance of energy, great networking skills, the ability to inspire and cast vision. Most of them are qualities we associate with extroversion. But what if you're an introvert? Does that mean you can't be a great leader?

I’m an introvert. I'd rather read at home than spend an evening out with a group. Even when I'm enjoying myself, it drains me to be out with friends. No one who knows me would describe me as high-energy or enthusiastic. Most people remark that once they get to know me, they think I’m a completely different person than they thought on first impression.

All these traits that culture associates with leadership seem impossible for me to achieve. But over the years, I've started to see how some of my traits as an introvert are actually important leadership characteristics. No matter what I do, I’m not going to be that outgoing, but I am a great listener. I’m not going to be domineering, but I am a strategic thinker. I’m focused. I keep things on track. I enjoy solving problems.

Early on in my time in groups, I was hesitant about leading. I looked at leaders I admire and didn’t see myself in their personalities. But as I took some risks and put myself out there—as I seized opportunities to lead—I realized there are countless traits that make introverts just as great at leading as extroverts . . . maybe even greater.

In her book Quiet, Susan Cain examines “the extrovert ideal,” our culture's subconscious preference for extroverted personalities—especially in leadership. Cain also has delivered one of the most popular TED talks. Whether you’re an introvert, like me, or an extrovert, you’ll find some great information in it:

I’d love to know what you think your greatest challenges have been as an introvert or extrovert? What have you learned from them? What advantages have you seen as an introvert or extrovert?

(Unsure whether you're an extrovert or an introvert? Check out this test [its not scientific, but it will give you a good idea]).