Introverted leaders. Does that sound like an oxymoron? One of the biggest challenges technical leaders face is that most of us are introverts in culture that favors extroverts. As more churches call on their technicians move from being doers to leaders and developers of teams, we have a big, steep hill to climb. But there is good news; we are in good company. In fact, I would suggest (and I’m not the only one to do so) that Moses himself was an introvert.
Consider this; he spent most of his adult life wandering around the desert. By himself. He seemed perfectly content to not interact with anyone but his flocks. Of animals. Who didn’t talk back or ask him questions. Sounds like a dream come true, right? OK, maybe not, but my guess is many of you (and I) would much rather spend our days in a quiet, empty tech booth wiring, programming, mixing or editing than surrounded by a large group of people.
When God called Moses out to lead His people, Moses’ first response was, “I am slow of speech…” (Exodus 4:10). Moses wasn’t stupid; he was introverted. He didn’t think out loud; he processed his thoughts internally then spoke purposefully. Again, sound familiar? Extroverts tend to think introverts are either slow or aloof because we’re spending more time thinking than talking, but I know so many of you, and it’s not true. You’re smart and caring; you just display it differently.
So how do we, fellow introverts, survive and perhaps even thrive as leaders in an extroverted church culture? Well, I have a few ideas. Much of this comes from a book I read last year, Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture by Adam S. McHugh. I highly recommend it. There is treasure trove of content in that book, but I’ll pull out a few principles that have already helped reshape my thinking.
Know Who You Are in Christ
McHugh writes, “We cannot find freedom in our introversion until we embrace our primary identities as sons and daughters of God.” Regardless of our introversion or extroversion, our Myer’s-Briggs profile, our SHAPE or our strengths, we are children of God and therefore significant, important and most importantly, called. We are called to do what we’re doing, and when God calls someone into a task, He equips them. Therefore, you have everything you need to lead your team successfully; you simply need to lean on Christ as the source of your strength. Trust Him to lead your leadership.
Many tend to picture leaders as the loud, outspoken, charismatic ones that people naturally follow. And sometimes that’s true. But perhaps that’s just the loudest voice getting all the attention at the moment. McHugh says this about leadership: “Leaders give people a lens and a language for understanding their work and experiences in light of larger purposes.” You don’t have to be a charismatic public speaker to lead people if that is your definition. Giving people a lens is something that you can do every weekend when the volunteers show up to do their jobs. You don’t have to do it in big groups, nor do you have to lead a thousand people to make a difference.
Re-Imagine Your Impact
At times, we introverts can feel inferior to the extroverts around us because our circles of influence are smaller. But instead of feeling like our introversion is a liability to leading others, perhaps we should consider it an asset. Again, to quote McHugh: “At times I have compared myself negatively with my extroverted counterparts who have more widespread influence. But I have come to see this ‘limitation’ as an opportunity to have a deeper impact on the people I do influence.”
Generally speaking, technical teams tend to be smaller, which favors our strength. While we may not influence hundreds or thousands, those we do influence will get much more from us. We have an amazing opportunity to make a lasting impact on those on our teams. Our natural ability to listen, get to know people and speak wisely will have a radical effect on our volunteers.
As introverts, we have a great opportunity in front of us. What some perceive as a weakness is actually a significant strength that has potential to be a transformative force in people’s lives. But we can’t allow our natural tendency to prefer alone times to isolate us from community. While we may not count dozens of “close” friends, we should have a few, and we should be intentional about investing in a small group of people. Pray about who those people should be, then begin pouring into their lives. Your impact will be profound!