By: Chloe Meier
Growing up, I never thought I could be a leader. In my pre to early teens I was quiet, especially around adults, I preferred to sit in my room and read over most other things, and I had a small group of good friends that I didn’t really have much interest in straying from. My best friend was the exact opposite. She loved making suggestions for things we should do, she was very confident, and she often spoke of things she wanted to work with other people to create. I usually followed her lead, and that is how our relationship usually operates to this day. I very much identified as an introvert. I thought this meant I didn’t have the capability to lead others. I was meant to be a follower. It wasn’t until college that I learned how very wrong I was.
Throughout high school, I was very involved in my school’s speech team. I was so dedicated to it that I decided I wanted to continue the activity in college. There, I met dozens of people who loved making suggestions for things we should do, who were very confident, and who often spoke of things they wanted to work on with other people to create. They were leaders. Many of them had the ability to control and move a room with passion in their voices that I considered to be the peak of public speaking. Many of them were ridiculously extroverted, and I often found myself sitting back and following their lead.
I didn’t go to college just to be on the speech team, though, and decided to major in English Education. I had always had a passion for reading and writing, as well as helping others, and I figured it was the perfect way to marry those great loves of mine. It was the English Education program that would eventually teach me how great of an introverted leader I could be. The students in the English Education program were my kind of people. They were bookish, nerdy, passionate, excited people who wanted to change the world through education. Many of them identified as introverts as well. Amid my internal battle between introversion and leadership, I was confused at their ability to marry the two.
Throughout my four years in the program, I came to recognize that these people weren’t overbearing extroverts yelling at the front of the room. They were the kind of people who could hold a room at attention with the quietest whisper. It was absolute magic to me.
That is how I came to realize that leadership is not about being the biggest or loudest person in the room. It’s about showing others your vision and inviting them to go with you. It’s about showing kindness and compassion to the people around you, and working together to create something wonderful. It’s about building people up and helping them flourish in their own unique ways. The most important thing I ever learned about my own leadership as an introvert is that you do not have to be up front to be leading. You can be a guiding hand from the back. You can be in the center of it all, doing your part and demonstrating by example.
The world has many loud, visible, extroverted leaders. They’re the ones at the front of the pack or up on the stage. We see them every day in politics, in schools, in workplaces. The quiet ones are there, too, although we do not see them as much. They’re the ones working diligently, patiently, and modestly. Quiet leaders are the ones who will often give credit more to those who helped them rather than themselves, even if it was their idea in the first place. We often mistake their quietness for weakness, when it is certainly the opposite. Quiet leaders are the ones who have taken the time to think everything through, and so they are certain and strong in their positions. They are ready—we are ready—to change the world.