What type of leader are you?
There are many ways of answering that question, and there are more books on leadership than authors to write them.
A quick search on Amazon for “leadership” reveals no less than 100,000 results, 80% of which are found in the books section! That’s a lot of different theories on what makes a good leader. But today, I want you to consider just one aspect to leadership – personality styles.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
I just finished reading an excellent book – Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. It’s an excellent book on the gifts that introverts bring to the table. And now that I’ve finished it, it got me thinking – how we lead a group, whether that be a church committee, a staff, or a Bible study group, should be influenced, in part, by personality styles.
If you’re not familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality profile, now is the time to read up on it. A simple Google search will bring up a plethora of resources devoted to understanding the 16 different personality types. However, sites like the Center for Applications of Psychological Type (capt.org) offer a professionally-certified way of evaluating personality types. Knowing what personality type you are can be an important way to understand your strengths and weaknesses as a leader.
But the best leaders don’t just know their own personality styles – they know the personalities of their followers. With 16 different types, though, this can be a daunting task – especially if you’re tasked with leading a large group. This is where Quiet comes in. Susan Cain pushes us to focus primarily on one aspect of personality types – the difference between introverts and extroverts. The book is written, in part, to help introverts see more clearly their role in society. Yet it offers so much more than that in helping everyone relate better with the people around them. In fact, an entire chapter is devoted to leadership, regardless of what type you are.
For more of what Susan Cain has to say, check out her recent TED talk on this very topic:
Regardless of how familiar you are with the Myers-Briggs types, a modest amount of observation should give you a rough estimate of who the extroverts in your group are and who the introverts are. And knowing this can make a world of difference. As an introvert myself, I know only too well the frustration that can come when it seems everyone in the group is talking … except you. While introverts often have some of the most insightful responses to questions, an inattentive leader will allow those thoughts and voices to be drowned out by the crowd.
Unfortunately, ministry, education, and group dynamics too often are geared almost entirely for extroverts. But as Susan Cain reminds us, this leaves out anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 of our population. So, the next time you’re tasked with leading a group or designing a ministry area, think of the introverts.
What is the best way to involve them?
What is the best way to give them a voice and help them feel heard?
And how can we structure activities that are geared to both extroverts and introverts to create a more balanced approach?