20 Feb , 2019
Before we explore why introverts can be excellent community services leaders, let’s first make sure we understand what an introvert actually is.
Introverts are people who gain energy by spending time alone, as opposed to extroverts, who gain energy by being around other people. While everyone can enjoy spending time with others or time alone, usually people go with one or the other when they need to rejuvenate.
The community services sector is made up of people with diverse interests and traits, including introverts! When we think about successful people and initiatives in the nonprofit sector, we often celebrate the outgoing, networked, outspoken individuals. And while introverts can be outgoing, good at networking, and outspoken at times, they often fly under the radar.
So what about introverts can make us great leaders in the nonprofit sector?
Whether it’s in meetings with fellow staff members, in our work with clients, or in our stewardship of donors, listening is important! An introvert’s default mode of listening first, speaking second means that we hear people before sharing our thoughts.
Introverts are social — they’re just social with fewer people on a deep level. As community services leaders, this means they can make people feel important and valuable by focusing their efforts on people that matter most to our work, whether that means board members, staff, community leaders, major donors, or vulnerable clients. And because they know those people well, they are good at making relevant connections to others in our network.
A few of the most important aspects of a good meeting are:
Introverts like being able to think in advance of meetings, so when they’re at the top of their game, they prepare agendas and send them out in advance so that others like us can also think and prepare in advance.
They’re also really good observers, noting when some people are contributing more than others or when others look like they want to contribute but are having a hard time cutting in (since introverts hate interrupting others!). They encourage new voices to add their input, and maybe even interrupt on behalf of others when one person is dominating discussion.
Finally, since they’re thinking and reflecting in real time during meetings, when the end of the meeting comes, they often excel at providing a summary of what has been said and synthesizing the different viewpoints and contributions.
Whether they seek hard data, gather observations, or solicit other peoples’ perspectives, they like collecting information and thinking and reflecting on important decisions.
As in every sector, we all know those people who make the news about themselves rather than their cause. Introverts are less likely to do that. They can speak up and out when needed, but often are best at talking up our cause rather than themselves (sometimes to the detriment to their own careers!) and at passing on opportunities to other team members.
Since they feel uncomfortable when people praise them publicly, they are quick to spread the love around and redirect the praise to other deserving individuals.
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