The Power of Introverts
Almost half of the world’s population is introverted. Unlike extroverts who crave large amounts of stimulation, introverts are quite shy and fear social judgement; traits which introverts internalized early in their lives. The key to maximizing our talents is for all of us to put ourselves in the zone of stimulation that is right for us. Most of our schools, institutions, and our workplaces are designed for extroverts who need lots of stimulation. We ‘have a new belief system ‘Group think’ which holds that all creativity comes from a gregarious or expressive place. In the old days our desks where aligned in rows, whereas in this new era desks are situated in pods facing each other and we are expected to act as committee team members.
Introverts are seen as outliners or problem cases. Teacher’s ideal students are extroverts opposed to introverts, however, according to Caine, research says introverts are known for getting better grades and are more knowledgeable. Also, introverts usually get passed over for leadership positions, but introverts often deliver better outcomes. Such transformative introverted leaders such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Park and Ghandi are known for being typically shy, quiet and soft spoken. They all have inherent power even though they all took the spotlight unwillingly as they were driven to do what was right.
I relate to this video is I am also an introvert that likes to spend a lot of my time alone. For example, I would rather spend time analyzing information on my own, than within a group. This is not to say that I am not team player, as I believe collectively issues can be resolved a lot more effectively within a group environment. But, I do like to spend most of my time expanding on my own knowledge-base to learn something new, rather than spend time socializing in large groups. To some introverts, as Cain explains, ‘Solitude matters; for some people it’s the air we breathe, and plays an important role in creativity and productivity. I believe this to be true of myself. It’s also been known for years the power of solitude. Some of the most introverted powerful religious leaders such as Moses, Jesus, Buddha, and Muhammad are known to be seekers wondering off into the wilderness gaining new revelations and then coming back to share with the rest of the community.
In my current job as a Superintendent managing more than 45 staff, I find it hard at times to be that outgoing social-type leader that is expected of us in today’s leadership world. My staff have given me feedback however, that I have am very approachable, compassionate, fair, transparent and tough when I need to be. They say ‘he is a quiet guy, but will stand up and speak out for what he believes in, and will also stand up for his staff’. Our branch recently conducted a team survey to understand what all of the management team’s different personalities consisted of. We were formulated into 4 different colors, which dictated whether we were red – outgoing extroverts and exemplified leadership, or blue – meaning withdrawn, analytical and introverted; I am blue in color which is defined as analytical and introverted in nature.. I do agree with Cain when she says we do need a balance of extroverts and introverts. The extroverts are there to help us get things done when the introverts are hiding in their caves, and when the introverts do finally show up, they will be able to help pull it all together with additional insight and their creative ideas.
Why do we make introverts feel so guilty for wanting to just spend time alone? In early times people lived a culture of character where they valued their inner selves and their moral rectitude. For example books in this era valued ‘character’ and great leaders such as Lincoln who was praised for being modest and unassuming. In this 21st century it appears that a culture of personality has evolved. Small town people went from working along-side their close peers and family, to the big city full of strangers, big crowds and a competitive world. Books of this new era have now changed to ‘How to win friends and influence people’, and a great role model is ‘a really great salesman’. This clearly suggests to me that there has been a shift in culture from introvert to extrovert. It has become increasingly harder for me to be accepted as an introvert especially in such a profound leadership role. I do maintain who I am, but with increased pressure from my peers, have moved toward a more open and expressive style when warranted.
When I conduct crew talks with my staff I have always wondered why some seem uninvolved and don’t participate in the discussions. I often reflect on my leadership style believing it is my fault, and I am not engaging them enough to keep their interest. After watching this video, I have realized that it just may be that they are engaged and interested, but introverted in nature and just don’t or can’t speak up. In fact, some do come to me after a crew talk and express their feeling about the topics discussed. I have also struggled in this PID program at times for example, with forums and blogs. I don’t typically involve myself in these types of social medias, including Facebook etc., however after forcing myself to crawl out from underneath my rock, I have discovered and realized what I have been missing out by not involving myself in forums and blogs. I have learned so much from other student’s insights, and then learning to reflect on those insights and taking my learning and growth to new levels.
As a future instructor what does this mean for me and my students? When I do start my new career as an instructor, I will be mindful of students that appear quiet and shy; that may seem uninterested and not involved. They may just be introverted by nature, and it will be my job as an educator to recognize these traits and adjust my instructional style to not necessarily force or ‘call them out’. I may have to change the room style, change up table formations from time to time, or ask for volunteers for input, rather than ‘voluntolding’ students. Not that I currently practice this behaviour, but I will be more mindful of this moving forward. I will however, encourage those students that appear to be introverts to share their own ideas and involve themselves more in class discussions, as it will benefit them by learning so much from other student’s insights, and then learning to reflect on those insights and taking their learning and growth to new levels.
I believe Cain in her video speaks for a lot of us introverts when she says, ‘Stop the madness of consistent group work’. Introverts need much more freedom, privacy, and autonomy at work and at school and should not be made to feel like the outsiders in society. Let introverts ‘go to the wilderness, to get away and get into our heads as so we can have our own revelations. That being said, I also believe by promoting good interaction amongst my students and teaching them to work together, will help to build healthy team working skills enabling students to be successful in their future careers.
I will embrace those extroverts that are full of energy and are craving for stimulation. Most importantly, I will have a good look in my own suitcase to understand why I have put what’s in it. I will strive to not be so guarded, and have the courage to open up my suitcase for other people to see, as the world needs my insight and all of the things that are in my suitcase.
Caine, S. (2012). The power of introverts. Retrieved from