Being extroverted and a successful leader are not synonymous
Photo by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor
By Yashpreet Birdi, Contributor
Demonstrating leadership is a concept that we have all likely come across in our course outlines, student club activities or job postings. Figuring out how to show others your leadership capabilities can be scary for those of us who identify as introverted. But maybe we should focus on redefining the term “leadership”. I have realized over time that there can be many opportunities for introverted students to become leaders.
McMaster University is constantly promoting initiatives such as Welcome Week, student elections and executive positions for student clubs. These activities are constantly tied to being extroverted and well-suited for future leaders.
For example, these opportunities usually consist of campaigning and delivering speeches which require you to be comfortable engaging with others. In other words, you can’t experience terrible anxiety when you’re put on the spot!
Because of the popularity of such initiatives at McMaster, it can become difficult for introverted students to realize that there is also space for them to demonstrate and develop strong leadership skills. If you are introverted, here’s how you can become your own type of leader.
Dare to challenge traditional perceptions
When I, an introvert, used to hear the term “leader” I would automatically visualize an extroverted person confidently standing at a podium, making motivational speeches that would eventually propel others towards a brighter future. I would rarely imagine someone who is seen as more “behind the scenes”. Why are these quieter personalities not often described to be motivational, ambitious, influential and powerful? It’s interesting to see how our brains automatically connect certain terms with specific visuals. But my stereotype visual is not the only possible depiction of a successful leader.
Through my recent observations, I have seen that leadership can be diverse. In our everyday life, we can see the several personality types that surround us — not just limited to introverts and extroverts. All personality types have different abilities, strengths, goals and preferences.
Create your own definition for ‘leadership’ and ‘success’
The dream of becoming the next great leader forces introverts to reimagine their idea of success and leadership. Try the simple practice of closing your eyes and visualizing yourself as a powerful and successful leader. What do you see? What are your strengths? What do you bring to the table? When you have a strong passion to contribute to making the world a better place, you must not let biases against your personality type prevent you from working towards your goals.
Take advantage of unique opportunities
There are many opportunities for introverted students to showcase their skills without having to change their personalities to fit into traditional ideologies of success.
Attending lectures and office hours for me is not only an opportunity to gain knowledge from experts. It is also a chance to get inspired and examine the hard work that professors perform behind the scenes to prepare for their academic duties. These experts have the amazing ability to influence various policy, health, science, politics and religious debates. Just by looking at these leaders, you can see endless opportunities for introverts. Think about the possibility of conducting research with your professors to contribute to their efforts of influencing the world.
Additionally, I believe that the best opportunity for us to demonstrate leadership is to exercise our right to vote as Canadian citizens. Commit to voting in the upcoming Canadian federal election on Oct. 21, 2019! If running for elections is seen as a leadership initiative, voting should be seen in a similar lens.
By making the firm decision to vote for the upcoming election, you not only take the initiative to take action, but you also strongly voice your opinion, and attempt to improve how our society and country operates. Does this not sound like taking a strong step towards leadership and making an impact?
Reflect, Define, Proceed, Repeat!
We should always remember that Albert Einstein once said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
It is essential to reflect on your personal missions, define what success and leadership mean to you and confidently proceed in your individual path. And don’t forget to repeat this process whenever you feel overwhelmed during your journey towards success and strong leadership!