Introverts are those who respond positively to lower levels of social stimulation. They relish the opportunity for quiet contemplation and inner dialogue. Problem solving and creativity increase for them as distractions of all kinds decrease.
Half of the population is introvert. Look around. Your friends, family, coworkers, and community are equally divided. People, of course, will fall anywhere on the spectrum between pure introversion and extroversion but will tend toward one orientation or the other.
Introversion will have an effect on your project or personal ministry. You, your colleagues, or your clients may prefer to operate in a lower stimulation environment. You will need to adjust your leadership approach to account for this fact.
Susan Cain wrote an excellent book entitled Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. In it she makes a strong argument for the need of introverts in a struggling world. Below is a TED presentation she made on her research. It is worth a few minutes of your time to hear.
Cain makes the point that when it comes to creativity and leadership your undertaking needs introverts doing what they do best, quiet reflection and innovative thought. Many segments of global culture, however, tend to frown on such an approach. She argues our core institutions are designed for high levels of social stimulation. Author Jonathan Rauch goes so far as to say introverts are misunderstood and oppressed. The net effect is roughly half of the population is being under reached and underutilized.
What does this mean for you as a leader? First, if you are an introverted leader, good! Recognize and use your strengths. Cain details how introverted leaders can achieve strong results by creating an atmosphere where proactive employees grow and develop their own ideas. Build time in their days where solitary reflection balances team interaction.
Second, as you reach out to the introverts in your personal or professional communities remember they might be resistant to a hard driving, trumpets and spotlights campaign. Low stimulation, softly repeated, personal interactions will yield far deeper relationships. The ideas and initiatives you share with an introvert will continue to grow in their quiet moments alone.
Third, as Cain states, “Solitude matters. For some people it is like the air that they breathe.” Free those around you to be who they naturally are. In so doing you will unleash their unique creativity.
Half of the people around you are introverts. They are living in a world that does not understand the best ways to use their strengths. As a leader your job is to engage this portion of the population, reaching them as clients and building your programs by tapping into their deep creativity. Build moments of reflection into your efforts. Help each person find their own quiet calling.