Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tuesday Q&A, part 4

The fourth installment of my Introverts in the Church interview with Jamie Arpin-Ricci:

JAR: You are clear that introverts are not exempt from the call to leadership. How might introverts lead differently? How can they be encouraged to step out in these ways?

AM: Not only do I think that introverts are not exempt from leadership, I think that those introverts who are called into leadership can be tremendously effective leaders. Much of our understanding of leadership is shaped by those people we have seen in leadership and the ways they have led. Many of us are accustomed to extroverted leaders and so we think we could never do what they do. Some of us, though, are fortunate enough to have seen introverted models of leadership. The most effective introverted leaders I know all know how to lead out of their strengths and to minimize their weaknesses. They are all experts in self-care and know how to save and restore their energy for ministry and relationships. Many of them follow the model of Jesus in focusing on the “few” – they can walk in larger circles but they relish opportunities to invest deeply in a small group of people and to pour into them their love and wisdom. They become a contemplative presence in whatever setting they are in – they listen carefully not only to the words that are said but to what is unsaid and the assumptions that lie underneath them. Many introverts find that spiritual direction is a ministry that suits them particularly well, or that the disciplines involved in spiritual direction – listening, prayerful silence, giving space to others - shape much of their ministry.

As far as how introverts can be encouraged to step out into leadership, I think they need to be convinced that they do have leadership qualities and gifts and their temperament does not automatically exclude them from leadership. That’s what chapter 6 in my book is about – dispelling the leadership myths and “ideals” that our culture subscribes to. And then secondly, they need to learn how to lead in ways that are genuine and life-giving, which is what chapter 7 is about. Nothing will kill an introverts’ sense of call like trying to lead like an extrovert. We just don’t have the energy or social capacity to do so, and thus we need to find the most effective, fruitful channels for our relational energy.