How introverts can become great leaders

by Ted Grubb12 Jul 2016

When it comes to taking that seat at the table and showing your true value to the school, there is no reason why an introverted educator cannot succeed.

The trick is to make small, accumulated changes to move out of your comfort zone over time.
 
Don’t seek more than three or four degrees of change. It’s far better to make a couple of modest changes and stick with them, rather than plan for a grand transformation.
 
In fact, trying to do too much at once much can be damaging. A better balance is to spend certain allocated times within your comfort zone – a quiet space where you can be alone – to ensure that you can then function well in times when extroversion is required, such as in the classroom or playground.
 
One of the most helpful pieces of coaching advice I ever gave was to a college president who scored as a low extravert on the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).
 
It became clear in conversations over time that she was really an introvert who had, of necessity, migrated toward more typically extraverted behaviours.
 
While this individual loved her job, she sometimes felt drained and not up to task when it became too much.
 
The solution? Simply to honour her true ‘introverted’ self on a regular basis.
 
“Every day after lunch, have your executive assistant block out one hour in your schedule for alone time – no calls, no meetings,” I told her. “That’s your sacred down time, and the sole purpose is to re-charge your batteries before heading back out to the demands of being president.”
 
While the ambitious introvert cannot live in their comfort zone all of the time, making the necessary visits once in a while will make those times doing more extroverted tasks a lot easier.
 
As for learning necessary skills such as public speaking – which may make the typical introverted teacher uncomfortable – this is something which still needs to be worked on and improved over time.
 
Whether fair or even accurate, there’s no way around it:  you get a lot of points if you can ‘stand and deliver’. Unfortunately, comfort in front of a crowd comes naturally to very few people.

Luckily, these types of skills can be learned with practise. Again, this is something in which incremental change, such as moving from smaller to larger venues, probably works best.
 
Get coaching, find opportunities to practise, attend Toastmasters, study online TED talks, do whatever it takes to at least get good enough that you aren’t undermining your own credibility, effectiveness and perceived confidence.
 

Ted Grubb is a senior faculty member at the Center of Creative Leadership (CCL).
 

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