3 ways introverted leaders can thrive in an extroverted world
By Deborah Wipf

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Have you ever stood in the back of a crowded room to take a break from talking to people? Did you have an overpowering urge to turn down that party invitation to stay home and read a book? Does not talking for several hours at a time sound perfectly normal to you? Me too!

As a fellow introvert, I can reassure you that you're not weird or antisocial. Solitude and quiet enable us to recharge so we can go back out into this extroverted world with some energy left in our emotional and physical tanks.


Which personality best describes you?
  • 1. Extrovert
  • 2. Introvert

There's been a lot of talk about introverts lately, yet it's only fitting that most of the "conversation" has been via articles instead of actual dialog. Susan Cain broke the ice with her TED Talk and book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. Donald Miller wrote about having a "people hangover." And Justin Lathrop discussed the challenges of being an introverted pastor. These are just a few examples of excellent material about introverts that have been refreshing to see.

An introvert myself, I am re-energized by solitude. I love being around friends and family, yet after an extended interaction, I need some time alone to recharge. That seems to be a common refrain among introverts. Our society tends to place a higher value on extroverted expression, and that's not likely to change anytime soon.

So, how can introverted leaders cut through the noise?

1. Give yourself permission to say "no."

Our extroverted friends may never understand why we need time alone and that's OK. We don't "get" their need to be around so many people all the time, either. The point is that you have to become OK with saying "no" on occasion — to take a break even though you may be misunderstood.

I'm very upfront about being an introvert, and that's been quite effective. Currently, I'm helping organize a women's event, and the other organizers know I'll have to go home for a long nap after the event is over. They don't really "get" it, but at least they don't think I'm upset with them or that I'm antisocial.

2. Find ways to push past your comfort zone.

Leaders are required to interact with others. Just like intense exercise brings muscle soreness along with increased strength, exercising your "extroverted muscles" may wear you out at first.

I've come to enjoy leading teams, attending events and doing public speaking because I know these activities provide me an opportunity to serve others. I've expanded my capacity for interaction over time and have learned when to take breaks. You don't have to try and become an extrovert, but go ahead and get out there to offer your unique talents.

3. Speak up for fellow introverts.

It's hard to get a word in during a meeting full of extroverts, but please make the effort. When your company is planning an event or special function, the focus tends to be on creating energy in the room. That's extroverted speak for a fun, engaging experience, and we should embrace their efforts.

We should also look for ways to help introverts enjoy the event. Recommend including an opportunity for quiet reflection or leaving a few open spaces in the room for introverts to retreat to when they need some breathing room. Those spaces will feel "dead" to the extroverts, so you'll need to explain how that helps some of their guests feel more comfortable.

To our extroverted friends: We really do love people; we just happen to love them in smaller doses. A big event with loud music, lots of people and constant visual stimulation wears us out. We're glad you're having fun at this type of event. Just don't be alarmed if we disappear for several hours afterward — we're at home recharging and will come back shortly.

We all have a responsibility to use our unique abilities and personality traits. Introverts possess a quiet strength that is just as needed as an extrovert's ability to energize a room. Offer your gifts, find ways to interact and recharge when needed. Trust me, the effort involved is worth it, and we need your contributions.

Deborah Wipf is the president and founder of Velocity Management Group, a company dedicated to helping church and ministry leaders with the business side of running an organization. She loves ministry, big vision, details, project plans and organization. Combining these passions into becoming a "business coach for churches and ministries" is how Deborah seeks to serve God and help people.

For more tips and resources, check out the VMG Blog. Connect with Deborah on Facebook or Twitter (@VelocityMgmtGrp).