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Introverts In Leadership And Ministry

Earlier this year, I chronicled as part of my sabbatical my investigations into ministry and personality type. My current reading is Adam McHugh‘s book Introverts In The Church, which Scot McKnight has picked up on.

Now I find I’m by no means the only Methodist minister interested in this topic. American minister Beth Quick posted an article last week entitled Introverts Can Make The Best Leaders, in which she cited an article from Forbes Magazine entitled Why Introverts Can Make The Best Leaders.

By way of a quick exercise, I thought I would take the five characteristics that the Forbes author and muse briefly on them.

1. Introverts think first and speak later. Well, sometimes a calm, measured approach is welcomed. When life is complex (and it is), careful reflection should be valued. I’m not sure it always is, especially in an always-on, text-sending, 24-hour-news-channel world.

2. Introverts focus on depth. I like this and I think it’s important. However, some people want ministers who are strong on chit-chat. They think it is a sign the minister is interested in people. It can be, but it can also be about a church that can’t get beyond superficiality.

3. Introverts exude calm. I haven’t often been told this! Although when I worked in an office and someone phoned in with a complaint, I was often the person who dealt with it. Many outwardly calm introverts are paddling furiously beneath the waves. There may be a genuine air of calm about a lot of introverts, but a lot of us have coping strategies, especially when calm is required in a group setting. The article quotes some examples. I rehearse conversations before I have them.

4. Introverts let their fingers do the talking. Yes. I love preaching, but I love writing. Given time, I can order my thoughts better that way.

5. Introverts embrace solitude. Please stop pejoratively calling the introvert a ‘loner’ and the extravert a ‘people-person’. You know the prejudice: serial killers turn out to be loners. When we withdraw from the exhausting task of being with people, we reflect and think.

None of this is meant to demean extravert leaders, but it is designed as a plea for people to widen their vision about the people who can lead and appropriate styles of leadership.

What do you think? What is your experience?

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About Dave Faulkner

I'm a British Methodist minister, married with two children. I blog from a moderate evangelical-missional-charismatic perspective, with an interest in the 'missional' approach. My interests include Web 2.0, digital photography, contemporary music and watching football (Tottenham Hotspur) and cricket.

Posted on December 13, 2009, in Books, ministry and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I am so grateful for this post! As a severely introverted introvert, I have exhibit almost all of the traits you mention, and yet I don’t think of all of them as handicaps. In fact, I like being a calm, reserved person. As I have tried to become a more outspoken individual, I have made many mistakes that my previous style of thinking through conversations, writing out responses, etc, would have helped me avoid. Such is life…

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    • A ‘seriously introverted introvert’: I like that! I don’t think all the traits of introversion of handicaps, either; the problem is in convincing people in an extravert-biased world!

      Like

  2. I write from the perspective of a parishioner. My minister (Anglican, Sydney diocese) I would classify as an introvert. However, he seems to know all that is happening and quietly uses the right opportunity for conversation. My only “complaint” would be that he is very conservative, as befits a Sydney Anglican!, and I am much more liberal. I like him though and his teaching is good.

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    • Hi Pam,

      Thanks for your comment. What a generous spirit you have towards your minister. It is heartening to read how much you appreciate his gifts.

      Like

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