Introverts Can Be Powerful Leaders!

It may surprise many of you to know that I am basically an introvert who has learned how to do extroverted kinds of things. Being an introvert has posed it's share of challenges for me. 

Here is my good friend. and fellow coach, JT Ayers sharing some outstanding insights for those of you in leadership who are introverts or know someone who is.

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I married an Introvert. I value what she brings to the table with her perspective. She simply makes me a better leader. I recently got into a conversation with her, and she confessed to me that as an introvert she has felt that her personality is wrong. She sometimes wished to be more like an extrovert. After a little research, I found out that she is not alone. Many leaders, who are introverts by nature, feel they should be more extroverted in their personality and leadership. This post is to refute this claim.


A person that is an introvert is not the same as being shy. Some people who are introverts might also be shy, but being an introvert has more to do with how a person responds to social stimulation. An introverted person will find energy and more purpose by being alone. They get more done when they aren't around a lot of people. They enjoy thinking, exploring thoughts and feelings. They may avoid social situations since this drains them of their energy. 


Most studies show that 1/3 or 1/2 of the population are introverts. Chances are you are one or you know someone who is an introvert. Examples of great introverts: Dr. Seuss, Gandhi, Bill Gates, Abraham Lincoln, Michael Jordan, Charles Darwin, Rosa Parks, Albert Einstein, Jessica Ayers. 


Our society holds a large bias to extroverts. Schools and businesses in today's world are set up for the extrovert. In school, desks are usually arranged in small groups. Collaboration and group work is the norm. The teacher may even describe their ideal student as one who is predominately extroverted. Businesses rarely have high walled cubicles, but rather open spaces where the noises of the co-workers is the norm. Social media, Skype, big cities, and conference rooms are commonplace for the business worker. 


They Prepare

Introverts understand the power of Solitude. They will spend time thinking through their goals and preparing for questions. They spend time on the vision and values of their actions. They would never say they "just wing it." 

They Give Credit When Do

An introverted leader who leads very proactive employees will tend to listen to them then give the employee the opportunity to run with an idea; whereas, an extrovert will get excited about an idea and unwittingly put their own stamp on the idea. Introverted workplaces typically have ideas more freely shared because people feel encouraged and valued. 

They Listen

An introvert is more likely to listen and pay attention to what other people are saying. People feel encouraged and valued by introverts. Extroverts butt into conversations and are generally the loudest people in the room.  

They Find Solitude 

Our world is very noisy. People used to take walks without music or podcasts. Introverts value the quiet. They process their thoughts and formulate responses and own ideology.  They are able to think outside the box and find solutions to problems because they take the time to do this. Unplug and get inside your own head every once in a while. 

They Are Calmer

Introverts tend to be calmer then your average excited extrovert. As Beth Buelow, author of Insight: Reflections on the Gifts of Being an Introvert, notes: "My energy tends to be a calming presence, which means I don't take up too much space in a room or conversation. And I don't need to take up a lot of space. I have a greater influence when I am intentional and deliberate in my speech and presence. "This calmness also gives a sense of safety to those around them. 


Stay who you are. We extroverts need you to stay like you are. You are creative, wise, and productive. You make great leaders and you teach us how to be better in our own leadership. 

Further Reading:

Click to read an excellent article title: Help Shy Kids - Don't Push Them


Four Questions Guaranteed To Change Everything

I have mentioned Lorne Sanny before in one or more posts.  Lorne was the president of The Navigators for 30 years, succeeding the founder Dawson Trotman.  Lorne called himself the “reluctant leader,” as he saw himself as one unqualified to lead an organization like The Navigators.

Humility (in my opinion) was one of the qualities that contributed to his solid leadership over all those years.

A part of what I am as a leader today is due to his influence on my life through his leadership and teaching during the 37 years I was on Navigator staff.

At one point during his 30 years, he passed around laminated cards on which was some of his leadership wisdom. When you were handed this card, you saw four questions that Lorne said every follower should be able to ask his/her leader. 

I am convinced that allowing those on your team/your organization to ask these four questions will dramatically change everything.

Ready? Here they are:

1. Will you tell me what you expect?

People thrive and do excellent work when it is clear what is expected of them. Job descriptions, clearly communicated expectations and what kind of authority they have to made decisions, spend money and bring on team members significantly helps. For the most part, people don’t function well in an atmosphere of ambiguity, uncertainty and confusion as to what exactly they are supposed to be focused on, or knowing what a win looks like.

2.  Will you let me do it?

People do better when they have freedom as to how they go about achieving agreed-upon goals.  There is a big difference in holding people accountable for results as opposed to micro-managing them on how they are to achieve those results. See the Post “Are you micromanaging or simply holding people accountable?” Set people free to use their God-given gifts, ingenuity and imagination and watch what happens. Don’t create a culture of fear where people are constantly looking over their shoulders waiting for the other shoe to dro

3.  Will you help me if I need it?

When I have a question, am facing an issue, am not sure what to do, are you available as my leader?  Can I come to you without feeling I am pestering you or interrupting your day. Am I important enough to you and have enough value to the organization that you would welcome and encourage me to come to you without fear or being accused of being incompetent? Please don’t throw me into the deep end of the pool and be left to sink or swim.

4.  Will you tell me how I’m doing?

 I need to hear from you regularly as to how I am doing in my job in reaching my goals and meeting the organization’s expectations. A once-a-year  “Progress Review” is insufficient and unsatisfactory for me. If I’m doing well, would you please tell me and if I am not, would you also inform me? I would function much better if I was consistently communicated with as to how I’m doing. On this subject, see the Book Note, “Get Rid of the Performance Review.”

Since I was first handed one of Lorne’s laminated cards and began to apply these four paradigm-shifting questions in my leadership role, my effectiveness took a quantum leap forward. May these simple, but impactful, questions do the same for you.


Get Rid Of 90% Of Your "Do List." Say What??

We have all read or heard about the value of “Do Lists.” Some of us have a difficult time keeping our priorities straight and are easily side-tracked onto rabbit trails that waste our time and energy. We have a difficult time doing as Steven Covey suggested, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” But have you ever heard anyone say that you should get rid of 90% of what you have on your “Do lists?” Well Michael Hyatt did say that…read on!


Originally posted by Michael Hyatt

Why You Should Flush 90% Of Your Do List Down The Toilet

It’s easy to confuse abundance with blessing, especially in our work life. But sometimes abundance is just another word for burden. And it’s crucial for our success and satisfaction that we learn to spot the difference.

More opportunities cross my desk every day than I can manage, and I bet it’s the same for you—even if you don’t always realize it.

We face a constant temptation in life to take on more than we can handle. We just don’t have the bandwidth. But it’s hard to let an opportunity go, isn’t it?

Dismantling the Yes Bomb

Each invitation, pitch, and request feels special, seems flattering, and promises more money, fun, or significance than we currently have. It’s just too good to pass up, we rationalize—forgetting that we’ve already excused several other yeses using the very same logic.

It’s even harder to reject demands from employers, clients, and others—even when we know we can’t manage them all.

We figure we’ll have to squeeze the new demand into the margin someplace, unaware that all our yeses are building a bomb that will eventually make casualties of our health, job performance, family life, and more.

The best guide I’ve discovered to dismantling these “yes bombs” is Greg McKeown’s new book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.

The Trivial Many and the Vital Few

“There are far more activities and opportunities in the world than we have time and resources to invest in,” McKeown says. “And although many of them may be good, or even very good, the fact is that most are trivial and few are vital.”

That’s the crucial difference between blessing and burden. We can fill our time with very good things and end up saddled, straddled, and stressed. That’s because good things might still be trivial.

As McKeown shows, Essentialism is a lifestyle focused on discerning the difference between the “many trivial” and the “vital few.” Essentialists are committed to the vital few in every circumstance they can manage.

The benefits include not only lower stress, but the satisfaction of developing real excellence and making a vital contribution through our callings.

7 Realities Every Essentialist Knows

Essentialism explains the ins and outs of the Essentialist lifestyle, but these are seven realities I found particularly meaningful as I look at my own day-to-day evaluation of opportunities.

  1. The power of choice. When we forget we have the power of choice, we allow others to determine what fills our time instead of ourselves. Essentialists remain empowered by choice to determine what they do and don’t do with their time.
  2. The momentum of focus. For every ten things Nonessentialists do, Essentialists do one. Instead of diffusing their energy, they focus it and gain momentum to make more impact than they otherwise could. When we complain about being “spread too thin” at work, this is a sure sign we need to shed tasks and train our focus.
  3. The importance of tradeoffs. To do one thing is to miss out on others—and maybe even essential things. The more we commit to doing, the more strained our schedules for the the things that are truly important, including family, rest, and play. Essentialists weigh every opportunity against the potential tradeoffs.
  4. The value of extreme criteria. Essentialists don’t consider the minimum requirements for a yes. They use extreme criteria: Is this exactly what I want? I’m I ideal for this opportunity? As McKeown says, “If it isn’t a clear yes, then it’s a clear no.”
  5. The role of the journalist. The role of a journalist is not to regurgitate facts, but to explain the meaning of those facts. Essentialists act as journalists of their own experience. Instead of allowing others to determine what matters and why, Essentialists make that determination for themselves.
  6. The power of clarity. According to McKeown, Essentialists pass on about 90 percent of opportunities. If we are clear on what we do, we can filter out a thousand things we shouldn’t. To gain this clarity requires asking hard questions, making difficult tradeoffs, and exercising self-discipline. And Essentialists know it’s totally worth investing in the 10 percent of opportunities that make sense for them.
  7. The liberating possibility of no. Saying no to the many trivial requests, Essentialists are really saying yes to what matters most in their lives: their faith, their family, their health, their calling.

To be successful, satisfied, fulfilled people, according to McKeown, we need to save our energy and creativity for just a few essential opportunities and pass on all the rest.

That will mean some hard choices, but we’re tricking ourselves to think burdening ourselves with superfluous yeses will make our life more comfortable. We’ll just shortchange the important activities and people in our lives.


Selecting The Right People

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about the importance of picking the right people. No decision, it seems to me, has more long-range consequences than having the wisdom to invite the right people to be among those closest to me. 

In my role as a leader developer, I’m always observing people with a view to their  future potential because I believe that one of the most important jobs of a leader is identifying, recruiting and developing the next generation of leaders.

Mark 3:13 (The Message) says, “He climbed a mountain and invited those he wanted with him. They climbed together.” Later on, after this situation, Jesus spent a whole night in prayer and made his selection as to those who would be his apostles, his chosen ones.

In Acts 1:24 (NIV) the need was perceived to select someone to take Judas’ place. “Then they prayed, ‘Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen.’” The eleven understood two things:

  •  Only God knew the hearts of those who were candidates for leadership

  •  They needed God’s help to make a good choice

As we read about Paul in the book of Acts and as he counsels Timothy and Titus in his letters to them, picking good leaders is always on the front burner.

It is becoming increasingly clear to me that the thing that can maximize the ongoing effectiveness and fruitfulness of God’s ministry through me, making it a joy and not a headache, is having the right people around me. I need to be extremely prayerful and careful in making these choices.

As most of you know, I coach pastors around the country and in several other countries.

One of the issues that surfaces on a regular basis is the need for God’s wisdom in selecting people to be part of the leadership team. There are a lot of bad situations in many churches due to making poor choices regarding key players. Often, the wrong people are on the team or they are in the wrong role.

I caution leaders against picking key players on the basis of friendship, business success, or popularity, but rather making choices based on the person’s innate God-given ability to do what needs to be done, coupled with appropriate people skills so as to be a positive contributing team member.

I sometimes find that pastors and leaders move much too fast and don’t do their homework before inviting leaders into their inner circle. Several pastors I know have been set back for months due to poor choices that caused one problem after another. I find myself telling my coaching clients over and over again: Pray, get the counsel of others, take your time, don’t be in a hurry, interview them several times, ask good questions, look at the character issues, look at their people skills, don’t get fooled by fancy talkers and winsome personalities.

Jim Collins, in his book “Good to Great,” has some excellent insight when he suggests that we “…get the right people on the bus and in the right seats.” I have begun to think in terms of two stages:

  •  Inviting the right people to get on the team bus based on character and chemistry

  •  Getting the right people in the right seats on the team bus based on competency and capacity

Let’s explore these two.

 1. Inviting the right people to get on the team bus with you:

I believe there are general characteristics that are foundational regardless of the role a person might play on the team. Among these essential character traits would be: A vital, deep and growing walk with Jesus, integrity, faithfulness, follow-through, hard-working, philosophical, missional and doctrinal alignment, good chemistry with the rest of the team. You get the idea.

 2. Getting the people in the right seats on the team bus:

In his excellent book ”First Break All the Rules,” Marcus Buckingham offers this advice: “If you want to turn talent into performance, you have to position each person so that you are paying her to do what she is naturally wired to do. You have to cast her in the right role.” 

You bring key people with proven character and track records of faithfulness and work ethic and then you place them in roles that fit their God-given talent. You don’t place people based on promise or potential but based on proven performance so that you know what they are gifted to do and have already done. 

That is why, if possible, it is always best to “hire from within” so you know what a person can and has done rather than what they tell you they think they can do. The surest way to identify each person’s talent is to watch his/her behavior over time. You cannot bring out of a person what God has not built in. 

You don’t train for talent, you hire for talent. All the training in the world won’t change a person’s God-given DNA or help them be somebody God never intended. A person who just doesn’t think in detail and never has will, most probably, never have this as a strength and should not be in a role where that is a major expectation. Oh, the issues I have dealt with where the leader cannot understand why so and so just doesn’t get it or can’t learn XYZ.  It just ain’t in the genes! Move them into a role that taps into who God made them. Marcus Buckingham says: “People don’t change that much. Don’t waste your time trying to put in what was left out.  Try to draw out what was left in. That is hard enough.”

I encourage and implore you, as a leader, to take your time in selecting key people for your leadership inner circle.  Look for vibrancy in their walk with Jesus and a hard-working person of strong character.  Once you select them to join you for your visionary trip, take the time to make sure what you ask them to do fits who God made them to be. Then sit back and look forward to a great trip.



The Primary Secret of Leadership Development

Every leader should be developing other leaders.  It should be part of every leader’s “Job Description.”  So, what are some of the secrets that all leaders need to learn so as to be good at developing future leaders?

Here Dan Rockwell shares with us the first (primary) secret. I believe you’ll be surprised, as I was.


Originally posted by Dan Rockwell on July 23, 2014.

It hit me on the way home that I said the wrong thing.

I stood and embraced Jack when he walked into the coffee shop where I was meeting with a young leader. Jack’s in his 80’s and an elder statesman in the community where I live.

He looked at the young man, then back at me, and asked, “Is he a good student?” Jack’s question made me a little uncomfortable. I wasn’t sure why.

I said, “Yes, he’s a great student,” and left it at that.

On the way home, about an hour later, it hit me.

Josh wasn’t the student. I was.


Leaders develop leaders by modeling and teaching leadership. But, every teacher learns before they teach. More important, every teacher learns while they teach.

Leaders are learners.


The first secret of developing a leader is teaching about leadership comes second. Learning about them comes first.

Successful leaders always study people.

  1. What do they already know?
  2. How do they feel about their performance?
  3. Do they feel connected and in the loop?
  4. How powerful do they feel?
  5. How do they perceive their role?
  6. What’s important now?
  7. What skills are most important to success now?
  8. Where do they feel uncertain?
  9. Where do they need greater clarity, simplicity, or focus?
  10. What drives them?
  11. What brings them fulfillment?
  12. What are their frustrations?
  13. What are they reluctant to try? Why?
  14. How can their strengths be utilized?
  15. Where might their skills be better utilized?
  16. Who should they develop? How?
  17. Who can expedite their journey?

Bonus: How much control do they feel over their area of responsibility?

Second level learning:

I want Josh to reflect on his journey. It isn’t what I teach. It’s what he teaches himself.

“Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself.”

~Warren Bennis