Introverts Make Good Leaders

From Justin Lathrop @ Catalyst:

I understand the insecurity that comes with being an introvert and a leader. The assumption that extroverts make better leaders hasn’t just permeated our culture, it’s also made its way into my mind, and over the years I’ve often worried I didn’t have what it took to be a leader because of my quietness or my desire to spend time alone.

Just look around at the people we most often trust to take leadership roles, and you’ll see the bias at work.

We expect them to be charismatic, gregarious, and well-spoken.

Recently Susan Cain released a book called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking where she is challenging, for maybe the first time, what she calls the Extrovert Ideal - our hidden assumption that extroverts are smarter, more capable, or they make better leaders.

Some of the things Cain shared made me realize how introverts are just as capable of leading — they have something to offer to leadership roles extroverts never could.

Why?

1. They are empathic.
2. They think before they act.
3. They are creative.
4. They lead with “soft power.”

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Adam

    Reading the original article, I can’t agree with the conclusions. I know people who are extroverted examples of all 4 categories. These are not introverted specific traits.

    Also, what happened to the idea that dividing humans into a binary division of extrovert/introvert is wrong thinking? Reality is that most people are a mix of both introvert and extrovert.

  • http://wildbohemia.tumblr.com/ Tim H

    I welcome the ‘affirmation’ of introverts. As an introvert, it took me years to find my voice, and to realize that I wasn’t odd just because I was introverted. It doesn’t help that in many churches, typical extrovert skills are over-emphasised (outreach anyone?). Now I’m at peace with my temperament, and I can use my skills as a teacher. (In fact most people don’t even know that I’m an ‘innie’).

    Adam – maybe some of the people you are thinking of are introverts who act as extroverts (like me)? Sometimes they don’t even realize it.
    Introversion vs extroversion isn’t about outward behaviour so much as how you recharge your batteries, as it were (introverts’ energy are depleted by too much stimulus vs extroverts’ find their strength in that kind of environment)

  • Adam

    Tim,

    I’ll go into the details.

    1. Empathy is not tied to either introversion or extroversion. And specifically, I know several proclaimed extroverts who are very good at “understanding how someone else feels”. It’s a false correlation to say that one type is better at empathy than another type.

    2. The explanation in the original about thinking and acting is about rewards. I know many extroverts who collapse when they don’t get their reward soon enough. They certainly don’t persevere against “seemingly insurmountable obstacles or even failure”. I, as supposedly introverted, am much better at the insurmountable obstacles than most of my extroverted friends.

    3. Creativity. I have a friend who is an artist for his living, specifically painting. He’s an absolute extrovert. Without time with people he caves in on himself.

    4. Is a dichotomy between talking a lot and not talking a lot. This is not tied to introversion or extroversion. Many public speakers are introverts. The pastor of my church is one such person. An introvert, yet he is considered extremely charismatic and speaks a lot and eloquently.

    The division of introvert/extrovert is too simple. There is no true divide here. Most people are both.

    I’ll also point out that you say introversion/extroversion is not about outward behavior and yet this entire article is about outward behavior.

  • http://wildbohemia.tumblr.com/ Tim H

    Sure! I don’t deny any of that. I was just saying that some innies sometimes pass as extroverts, that’s all. :)

  • Barb

    That’s just what I was thinking–those traits are not actually characteristic of introverts–they are characteristics of good leaders. Many extraverts are great leaders too.

  • Brian Roden

    I heard on the radio driving to work one day this week the findings of a “study” that showed extroverts are happier, so introverts should make themselves do extrovert-typical things to help them feel happier. I immediately thought, “and the definition of happiness they are aiming for was probably written by an extrovert.”


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