Standing out as an introvert

Illustration by Scott Gonzales

Illustration by Scott Gonzales

Kate Arey, guest columnist

There is a perception in society that great leaders and role models are extroverted individuals who command attention and inspire others through their charisma and charm. However, this is a narrow, limiting view of leadership that overlooks the many qualities and attributes that introverts bring to the table.

As an introvert, I have always struggled with finding my role in social situations, even though introverts can be just as effective at inspiring and motivating others as extroverts.

There is no single style of leadership that is universally effective. Introverts may not choose to be the life of the party or the center of attention, but we all have the capacity to create change and take control. 

As described in a Time Magazine article titled, “The Surprising Benefits of Being an Introvert”, introverts are often excellent listeners and have a keen ability to empathize with others. This can be invaluable when building strong, lasting relationships and creating a sense of trust and mutual respect.

Independence is a key component of leadership and according to research performed in the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, introverts are highly skilled at problem solving and critical thinking. Cain explains that although they may not seek the limelight or crave attention, introverts lead by example and demonstrate values and beliefs through direct action.

Consider the times in a classroom when the teacher would sit the well-behaved, yet quiet students next to the students who are struggling or are more poorly behaved. In my personal experience of this, my teacher sat me down and told me they placed me in that spot to offer guidance and an opportunity to lead in a less declarative way. Thus, introverts could serve as excellent mentors and coaches that guide and support others in achieving their goals.

In many cultures, introverted people are highly respected and valued for providing insight, wisdom, and thoughtfulness. Introverts such as Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, Rosa Parks, and Mahatma Gandhi all resemble respectable thinkers and role models that have led powerful movements and presented revolutionary ideas to our world.  They embody an ideal leader that is calm, collected, and able to make thoughtful, strategic decisions.

The word “introvert” can have a negative connotation associated with it, but by recognizing the value and contribution of introverted leaders, we can create a more diverse and inclusive society that values different styles of leadership and recognizes the strengths and abilities of all individuals.