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.