The Extroverted Leader

Today I read (and forwarded, tweeted, and posted to facebook) a great article by Thom Rainer called “The Introverted Leader.” He explains what it’s like to lead as an introvert. An added value of the article is learning to be more sensitive to introverted leaders on our team (especially as an extroverted leader). So Thom Rainer, here’s my companion piece – “The Extroverted Leader”

I am an extrovert. I speak in public and group settings over 100 times a year. I am the senior pastor of a church of 2400 with over 50 employees.

It seems like a winning combination. I love being out front leading and preaching week in and week out. I am happiest when I’m with other people, verbally processing all the myriad thoughts and feelings that pop into my head.

What Drains Extroverts

Being alone drains extroverts. Also, agonizing gaps of silence in a conversation drive us crazy. We get frustrated when a conversation isn’t reciprocal. We dread the spiritual discipline of silence and solitude. We love being the center of attention, so when we can’t process externally, we become emotionally “constipated” (okay… I know that’s over-the-top… but true nonetheless)

We’re often perceived as friendly because we enjoy engaging people, but far too often, because we tend to be processing what we’re going to say next, we don’t listen. So we need to actually be fully present in the moment, especially in meaningful conversations.

Compensating for Extroversion

Leaders must compensate to lead effectively. Here are my own seven principles for leading as an extroverted leader.

1. Compensating for extroversion is not an option. Leaders can’t lead without dealing with people in a multitude of settings. If I am not willing to compensate and learn how other people process, I will not be an effective leader.

2. I must practice LBLTO, leadership by listening to others. I love walking around the office, engaging people, but far too often, I’m not really listening to what other people are saying. I must be willing to sit down and slow down, being present and in the moment. If not, people really can sense when you’re there physically but not emotionally.

3. It often behooves me to explain to others that I am extroverted and will need to process things externally. Often in meetings I will communicate to my team, “I’m processing externally right now, so don’t hold me to everything I’m going to say. You’ll know, and I’m sure I’ll verbally let you know when I’m really serious about something.” My wife has a “Jonathan needs to talk about it 3 times for me to take him seriously” rule. I also tell people to beware of my personal space because as an extrovert, my arms and hands will gesticulate wildly, especially as I get more passionate about an idea.

4. When possible, I need to be more efficient in meetings. Since I love the dialogue and engagement, meetings can go longer than needed. Dr. Rainer says in his article, “I also notice that extroverts tend to organize long and tedious meetings. They enjoy them. I don’t. I really don’t.” Also, I need to draw introverts out in meetings. The extroverts hog the airspace, and as the leader and facilitator of a meeting, I need to be more aware of inviting introverts into the conversation.

5. As much as possible, I need to have introverts on my team emind me to not talk so much. They also model a quiet interior life that I need so desperately to be better at.

6. I need to practice self-awareness constantly. In that regard, I need and have people I trust to speak to me truthfully. If I appear to be overtaking any and every social moment, I need a friend to tell me to be quiet and create some space for others to engage.

7. I must schedule interaction time. If I stay sequestered in my office too long working on a sermon or a project, I become unfocused and unproductive. But I can’t succumb to the temptation to not head back into my office (where it’s quiet… ughhh…) to get the work done that I need to get done.

The Extroverted Leader Can Lead

It is possible for us extroverts to lead. But it takes effort. Sometimes it takes a lot of effort, especially to be quiet and learn the discipline of not having to externally process all of the time.

Feel free to give me your take on this matter. I would love to hear from all of you, especially fellow extroverts.

But then again, most of you extroverts may talk (or type) so much that I won’t have a clue of what you’re really saying.

I understand completely.

8 Replies to “The Extroverted Leader”

  1. Excellent piece – I read the other article this morning. As an extrovert who prefers to be unnoticed, I see myself in both. Very helpful insights.

  2. This is a great article, and helpful for this introvert to “get” how you process information. If I may offer some minor reactions:

    You mentioned: “I need to be more aware of inviting introverts into the conversation”. Thank you for noticing this. To really help us in this, draw us out after conversation has processed, so we can think about what we will say. Also, some of our best insights are going to come after the meeting. Fostering some kind of forum or asynchronous/offline communication for follow-up can draw out greater thought from your introverted partners.

    In point five you said, “They also model a quiet interior life that I need so desperately to be better at.” A subtle push-back: What’s going on in our “interior” life may be far more active than you realize. What we often do is keep it inside, only letting out something closer to a finished thought.

    Your point seven is a good statement of the opposite of what introverts need. We need to get out more to interact with others, but when we need to figure things out, our best work is done in solitude. Don’t sell yourself short on your extroverted ability to be productive “out loud”. Our temperaments can either clash or complement one another here. Let’s figure out how to use these traits for the better!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It’s helpful for me as an emerging introverted leader to work better with my extroverted friends.

    1. jason, thanks for your comments and insight. and yes, it’s more about drawing introverts out than simply inviting them into the conversation. and I’ve also learned with my introverted teammates to follow up with them after a meeting. or if we’re going to discuss something big, them give them a heads up and give them to time to process.

  3. Thanks for sharing this information, being an absolute extrovert your insights saves me from my plaguing thoughts of having ADHD. As an extroverted people-person, I sometimes tend to clash with introverted task-oriented people, as you have suggested, so I appreciate the insight in the “introvert” article as well.

    We both want to get the same job done, but let’s talk about it first. :o)

    If we could all learn how to deal with the opposite, we would be that much more effective for His Kingdom!


    1. thanks marla… it is critical to seek to “understand more than be understood.” and in our relationships, on our teams, and in the church, there’s a vast mix of people. the more we can appreciate the diversity of personalities, the more become unified in our mission and vision. thanks for all you do!

  4. Excellent perspective. You capture the side of extroversion that we introverts need to understand. I would say more, but I am drained with this much chatter : )

    1. thom, thanks for taking the time to comment. it is a joy and a challenge to lead a team filled with both extroverts and introverts. and I’ll stop now because I could talk and type your head off 🙂

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