In Part 1 of this series, I gave you some background about myself and some of the misconceptions of being an introvert. In this part, I'll discuss some of the qualities that introverts have and how these types of teacher leaders can really benefit a school or district. *I use the term "teacher leader" loosely because I think that all teachers have the potential to lead and to be leaders. I realize that the term is often used as a specific title or position.
Depending on what research you read, about 1 out of every 2/3 people is more introverted. This is important to know for principals and other leaders of a school or district. Many of our school structures are organized for large groups of people. Meetings are usually with a group of educators trying to communicate and collaborate to make decisions and move forward. Often, the decisions are made during one meeting. Extroverted leaders voice their opinions, argue their points, and then a decision is made. Many times more introverted leaders don't have time to reflect on the possible outcomes, problem-solve, or have time to prepare thoughtful responses. They listen, observe, and try to process all that is said. Extroverts think out loud by talking. Introverts are thinking but in their heads. A misunderstanding can happen when extroverts make the assumption that introverts have no opinions or thoughts on the topic at hand. Introverts can be easily thought of as non-contributors. Nothing could be further from the truth. So how can a principal or other school leader identify and tap into the talents of the quieter leaders? What strengths do introverts have? Are introverted teachers capable of being true leaders?
Strengths of Introverted Teacher Leaders
- Relationships: Introverts are good listeners. They highly value a few close friends because it takes so much energy to develop a trusting relationship. Introverts are genuinely invested in the people they come to know on a deeper level. Small talk is draining. Real conversations are energizing. Introverts are sensitive and intuitive. They think about others' comments and often have the ability to draw out vulnerabilities in confidential conversations. Think of introverts as great 1:1 mentors and teachers.
- Observant: Being observant is closely related to the introvert's ability to develop deep relationships. Non-verbal cues and body language can reveal what a person is really thinking and feeling. An introvert is in-tune with people because of their observations. Introverts can often describe the school climate/culture with more detail because of being able to observe the little things that other people miss.
- Creative: Many introverts are also on the gifted spectrum and highly creative. Given enough time to let ideas incubate, introverts have the ability to think out of the box or think of divergent solutions within the box.
- Reflective: Introverts naturally engage in self-reflection. They can help others learn this skill. We know that much of our learning happens because of being able to reflect on our practices. An introvert can guide others through the process.
- Knowledgeable: Reading about a lot of topics and reading to study topics in-depth is a favorite activity for introverts. They can be a tremendous resource for teachers and principals.
- Prepared: To compensate for other weaknesses, an introvert spends a lot of time planning. They may not be the most fluent speakers off the top of their heads, but because of their ability to focus and prepare, they have the capability to present high-powered, engaging presentations that could bring an extroverted counterpart to shame.
- Advocate: Introverts will be an advocate for teachers to have more time for planning instruction and reflection. They will also advocate for meeting the needs of diverse learners. Not all kids benefit and learn in a traditional school environment.
Teacher leaders that are more extroverted are "out there" in the public eye with seemingly endless energy and enthusiasm. They easily catch the attention of principals and other administrators and are labeled as "all-star teachers". Their talent for speaking, unwavering confidence, and ease in multiple social situations is admirable. They easily volunteer to lead various committees and initiatives. Their leadership capabilities advance them up the hierarchical ladder. Extroverted teacher leaders seem to do it all and deservedly earn a lot of public praise and credit.
It'd be easy for an administrator to overlook the talents and abilities of an introverted teacher. They may not volunteer to take on a leadership responsibility. But by communicating their value with a personal conversation, memo, or note and then asking them to take on a leadership role, there's a high probability that all they needed was an opportunity and a nudge.
There is nothing wrong with being introverted and there is no reason why introverts can't be great teacher leaders. Many of the natural qualities of introverts are highly coveted leadership traits. The quiet leadership of introverts can facilitate significant changes that will improve teacher practices and student learning.