The Introvert Leader’s Survival Guide

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Extroverts dominate leadership literature, but what about the introverts?

Nobody ever believes me when I tell them I’m an introvert. I tell people that I’m actually a naturally quiet guy and they all laugh — probably because they hear my super-passionate messages and humor every Sunday.

I’ve spent years burying the introverted me … but it’s still there. According to the Meyers-Briggs, I’m actually a very strong introvert (INTJ). And if you don’t know what you are, here’s a link to a free Jung personality test.

Part of the reason people are surprised is because they don’t really understand the definition of an introvert.

Some automatically think it means you’re shy or never talk (and yes, those people do have a higher likelihood of being introverts). But it’s actually a measurement of where you get your energy and clarity.

For extroverts, social interaction brings energy and clarity; whereas for introverts, energy comes from solitude or through a small numbers of intimate friends. And a large part of it has a genetic basis (about 40%). Research can actually determine introversion in newborn babies (as they are more sensitive to external stimuli, like lights/sounds/etc.). Indeed, research has even shown that introverts subconsciously tend to listen to music at slightly lesser decibel levels! It’s not so much that it’s painful; rather their physiological reaction to things is stronger; therefore, to focus they need space.

To complicate things, America is one of the most “extrovert dominated” nations in the world — where business models have been obsessed with rewarding and elevating extroverted values. Global research has even proven that Americans (unlike the rest of the world) actually perceive fast talkers and gregarious people as more intelligent — even better looking!

Not surprisingly, Americans are also irrational advocates of “extrovert-biased” leadership techniques (like group brainstorming, and open office floor-plans and meeting formats) even though research is now finding all of these practices to have a devastating effect on both the morale and creativity of an organization. Yet, even still, people keep cranking out business books advocating these things.

Don’t get me wrong, there are, in fact, a lot of advantages to extroversion. Extroverts are statistically better at ignoring unjust criticism. They’re better at injecting confidence into a group of people.

Of course, there’s a flip side to this “gift.” They’re also less likely to learn from their mistakes … less likely to listen to “justified” criticism … and they’re more likely to have extra-marital affairs. (Ouch!)

And, for years, I started to believe all of the bias. I’ve seen my introversion as a liability … a thing that hinders my influence. And, especially as a senior pastor, I’ve always felt like a fish out of water. 

After all, I’ve never had the natural ability to schmooze in the church foyer, or glad-hand in public forums. Don’t get me wrong: I still do it. In fact, in the beginning of our church, we hosted dinners for over 80 people/week. We replaced all of the carpets in our humble home because we couldn’t afford to keep professionally cleaning them. We essentially lived communally for several years. 

And finally, when I decided that I’d rather quit and die than continue to pretend to be an extrovert, I asked God why he had made me this way. Thankfully, he opened me up to a massive amount of flattering research about introverts.

Peter Haas Although only in his mid-30's Pastor Peter Haas has already become a well known pastor, author and conference speaker. After experiencing a radical conversion to Christianity while working in a nightclub as a rave-d.j., Peter has travelled the world sharing about God's miraculous passion. Since relocating to Minneapolis Minnesota in 2004, Peter planted an arts-oriented multi-site church called Substance. In just a few short years, Substance has become one of the fastest growing and most youthful mega-churches churches in the United States. Over 70% of the thousands who participate in their community are under 30 years old.

More from Peter Haas or visit Peter at http://www.peterhaas.org

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  • Ross

    I’ve known that I’m an introvert since I first learned the meaning. Certainly that, nor being shy or reserved, shouldn’t stop us from taking courage and learning new skills, even if it takes a long time. I was terrible at public speaking, and after 14 years of practicing, I’m proud to say I’m less terrible. haha Seriously, I’ve improved a lot. I also have ADHD. When you look at either from the perspective of uniqueness, be perceptive and take steps to learn from and master your particular DNA. I think you’ll see as I have, its less of a hindrance and more of a nudge to move you in the direction God wants you to go. Be bold, and Good bless you

  • Brian

    I took the test, and here are my results!
    INTJ
    Introvert(89%) iNtuitive(62%) Thinking(12%) Judging(78%)
    You have strong preference of Introversion over Extraversion (89%)
    You have distinctive preference of Intuition over Sensing (62%)
    You have slight preference of Thinking over Feeling (12%)
    You have strong preference of Judging over Perceiving (78%)
    Shocking….not! It’s hard, but i have a MUCH easier time being in front of people in a controlled situation, like leading worship, preaching, even leading a small group, then I do talking 1 on 1 with those same people, which I find nearly impossible to do. My pastor sees this as a hinderance, as we’re all about building relationships with people. I agree, but, no matter how hard I push myself, I just can’t be the initiator or carrier of a conversation. If the other person takes the lead, I’m OK. But if I have to do most of the talking…..not good.
    We all have strengths and weaknesses. We just have to learn to recognize them, and see them as a GIFT God has given us…because they are. it’s what makes us unique! Of course, we should work on improving on our weaknesses. Just don’t think there’s you have to reach to someone else’s level while doing so! I know I’ll NEVER get that 89% Introvert level down to anywhere close to 50%….and I’m OK with that!!

    • Jim Young

      I have always struggled with the conversation dominance view of evangelism. Thinking that I will never be “good” enough at it to make a difference but have found through my experiences that one on one or in small group settings I am able to be very free. I still don’t dominate the conversation but learning how to guide someone to somethin seems more likely to last than selling them something

    • ptwhite2003

      I have the same issue – very happy to preach, talk to crowds, heck, I’d even talk to the nation if you put me in front of a camera. But one-on-one is the most painful experience. Because you can talk into a microphone, people assume you are an extrovert. The other aspect to this is people also mistake me for a snob because I find it difficult to strike up a conversation with them; I actually avoid people I know when in the supermarket so I don’t have to talk to them. Oh, the pain of introversion! Thank heavens I have my own company to fall back on.

  • Chas

    I started to take the test and got bored after question 5. think I’ll work on it over the next two weeks.

  • Ryan

    This is my score to the test:
    Introvert(100%) iNtuitive(25%) Thinking(50%) Judging(33%)
    You have strong preference of Introversion over Extraversion (100%)
    You have moderate preference of Intuition over Sensing (25%)
    You have moderate preference of Thinking over Feeling (50%)
    You have moderate preference of Judging over Perceiving (33%)

    I am a Design Engineer to which most the mechanical group are intorverts. My job is highly social so I do come home and lock myself in the house and don’t go out except for groceries. I don’t go to church mostly because I don’t want to have to deal with another group of people. I do like people but I get socially burned out quickly. When I go to meetings at work I almost never talk unless someone specifically asks me a question. I do well talking one-on-one with people but as soon as a third person enters the conversation, I subconceously shut right up. I have a good relationship with God and this could be because the one-on-one thing. My wife is my one and only best human friend. I’ve no desire for more. I have a hard time with 2 friends in the same place. I have a hard time with God and wife being in the same place for dividing time for both. I feel bad that I’m cheating on one over the other. I know this sounds odd.

    The one question about liking small groups over crowds didn’t go far enough. I don’t even like small groups. Might as well be in a crowd. For me a group is one other person. I do very well at jobs that can be done alone. I can work in a group but the more extroverted people tend to jump in ahead of me. I am highly physically active but socially opposite.

  • James Hagen

    Thank you, I’m an INFJ and often get misread for an extrovert. This is really helpful.

  • kate

    Thanks for this! I am an INTJ leader and have tirelessly tried to be more extroverted and have exhausted myself in that. I am finally accepting who I am and seeing the strengths in it as a gift not a flaw. Ultimately I am regularly reminding myself that what matters is not what others think because I will never live up to that, but learning who God made me to be and what my role is in His mission, He’s the one I will answer to about what I did with what He gave me. Thanks for the encouragement!

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