I publicly declared myself an Ambivert in a past post. While I still believe that there are elements of both introversion and extroversion in all of us, after a few recent experiences, some reading, and reflecting on my personality, I would like to amend my thoughts. I am a true introvert who leans towards extroversion in some specific situations.
The more I read about introverts, the more the reality resonates with me. In social situations, with large, loud crowds, I become exhausted. After three days of workshops surrounded by many colleagues, where we ate and learned together for 8 hours a day, I was physically and mentally drained.
Extroverts, from what I read, gain energy from these kind of environments. But as an introvert, I recognize that I lose energy in large groups. After days like that, I seek out solitary time, or time with close friends in more intimate settings. A walk to the beach with a friend just about saved my life after one of these days. As did eating my lunch alone in my office the following day. A few people questioned what I was doing and why I chose not to eat with a group. No explanation seemed to satisfy them.
I find that people who are not introverts are baffled by the needs and behaviors of us introverts. They can’t imagine anyone not feeling the rush of energy being surrounded by others. They can’t imagine people choosing to be alone. Susan Cain does a phenomenal job of exploring this in her book, Quiet. So does Sophia Dembling in The Introvert’s Way. Both books, with very different styles and approaches, share specific examples of experiences of introverts. While research suggests that close to 45% of people may be introverts, much of our society is grounded in the beliefs of extroverts. I know I would appreciate if more people read and understood what life as an introvert was like.
After having written the first half of this blog post, I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Anthony Muhammad speak. One of his points about transformational leadership was the importance of leaders building trust and enhancing their emotional intelligence. Muhammad identified five factors that school leaders need to work on:
- openness to experience
Seeing extroversion as a factor surprised me. Dr. Muhammad went on to explain that not all leaders naturally have all five of these factors, but that it is a leader’s job to build these skills in ourselves where we are weak and to surround ourselves with teams that compliment our weaknesses.
This made me reflect on my time as a school principal. That was the first leadership job I had where I had to work on becoming more of an extrovert. It was uncomfortable, but it was a necessary part of helping me feel successful in my job. So while I am clearly an introvert by nature, I am able to hone in extroversion skills when needed. However, I hope that those around me realize that even when I push myself out of my comfort zone, I am still emotionally drained from the experience.
So often when we try to make things in life black and white, we realize that there are so many shades of color in between. I continue to reflect on myself personally and professionally, and how my introversion can positively and negatively impact me.
- Do you gain or lose energy from crowds?
- Are you an introvert, and extrovert, or an ambivert?
- Do you ever have to compensate for what you are not, as a leader?