Workshop illustrates advantages, pitfalls of introverted leadership

By Grant Morgan, Writer

LeadAkron, a subdivision of The University of Akron’s Student Life, hosted a workshop on leading as an introvert on Tuesday, Oct. 28 in the Student Union.

The seminar discussed what it means to be introverted, why introverts are misjudged and their suppressed propensity for leadership.

Alison E. Doehring, assistant director of Student Life, began the presentation with an informal YouTube video listing 12 signs of an introvert: “An ideal Friday night is at home,” “you screen all of your phone calls,” “you actively avoid small talk,” and so on. The listeners thought these traits were silly, but often they’re true.

The slideshow shown was of famous introverts including Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. and Barack Obama. Doehring argues that leaders do not have to be extroverted; an introvert’s ability to listen and be silent is conducive to respect and wisdom which are leadership qualities.

“The opportunity to process and to think is misconceived by some people,” said Doehring. “And it is a prejudice that introverts don’t like people or don’t like public speaking.”

According to LeadAkron’s sources, 40 percent of business executives are introverts.

Another misconception exists in the distinction between those who are shy and those who are introverted. Doehring says that silence in shy people is awkwardness, while silence in introverts is wisdom. A shy person’s “favorite punctuation” is an ellipsis; an introvert’s is a comma.

There are, however, downsides for introverts: perception gaps, career “derailers,” invisibility, and lost opportunities. Lost opportunities are most prevalent.

“[Introverts] could have been tasked to take on something, but get forgotten because they don’t always step up,” said Doehring.

A listener handout proposed that introverts avert these problems by preparing for the situation, listening and observing, asserting themselves, and getting support from friends and mentors.

“[Introverted and extroverted] are two key terms that people hear but don’t understand what they mean. For us, it’s not to say that there is a distinct separation—it’s how you will have either or both characteristics, and it’s how you can pull out different skills within yourself from them,” Doehring said.

“Leadership for Introverts” is a new workshop for the fall semester. Each of LeadAkron’s 10 workshops will be held again in November. More information can be found on UA’s Department of Student Life website.