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Can Introverts Be Leaders?

Starting in high school I was drawn to leadership and joined the student association. I almost didn’t join, however, because I talked myself out of running for office before I submitted my name.

My grandpa asked why I wasn’t going to run. I shared with him that I wasn’t popular and outgoing, which meant no one would vote for me, so I was saving myself the hassle and heartache.

He donned his serious pastoral face and told me what turned out to be highly useful leadership advice.

“Now Buddy,” he began, using my nickname, “you won’t know unless you try.”

But he didn’t stop there. The next part has stuck with me through the years.

“Leaders don’t make decisions for others. Leaders also don’t let their assumptions get in the way of doing their best and following their dreams.”

He continued, “If you don’t run, you’re guaranteed not to get the position, but if you run and let others make their own decisions, then your dream is 100% more likely to come to pass.”

I slipped into the student association office the next day. It turns out no one wanted to run for treasurer. Perfect! Instead of a popularity contest, it was a person vs. no person contest.

An introvert like me was much more likely to win that type of vote. So I submitted my name.

Thankfully, I didn’t feel the sting of defeat to a “no” checkbox and was voted as student association treasurer.

I discovered two things while on the student association that year: (1) I disliked being treasurer and (2) being extroverted and popular didn’t necessarily make a good leader.

In fact, the best and most dependable leaders on the student association tended to be the less popular, more introverted people.

Those that didn’t waiver over what others thought.

Those who could work on their own and also in groups.

Those who talked less and listened more.

Those who focused on the merit of the idea rather than the person who presented the idea.

Popularity tends to belong to those who are extroverted and outgoing. This is true in high school, but it can also extend to the work place. (I recognize this is a blatant blanket statement that applied to my high school experience and does not necessarily reflect everyday reality.)

The same is true in the work place as in high school: popularity does not make for the best leaders.

The best leaders are self-aware, relationally transparent, balanced in their decision-making, and possess an internal moral perspective that drives all they do.

In short, the best leaders don’t have a specific personality.

The best leaders are authentic to the personality they own and seek to improve it daily for the betterment of themselves and those around them.


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