When I picked up the book a few weeks ago, I had heard nothing about and knew nothing of the author, but the title caught my eye. I am most definitely an introvert and I have found that many people assume all leaders are, and should be, extroverts. Naturally, a book talking about introverts and leadership and church interactions was interesting to me. The book confirmed for me that you can be introverted and still be a leader and called to some kind of ministry. It helped me see that the way I do things sometimes is normal, not strange just different from how an extroverted person would do it. And it also challenged me in areas where I need to push out and beyond where my introverted personality has me.
I know, and have always known, the importance of Christian community. God didn't create this life to be lived alone. He created us to live it in community with others. But, to be honest, being around people all the time drains me. Don't get me wrong, I love to hang out and have a good time with friends or to talk with a close friend for hours. But, in all groups, no matter the size, I will get tired faster than people who are more extroverted - this happens especially when the group is quite large.
Sometimes I've wondered if this meant there was something that wasn't quite right about me. I mean if God designed us to live in community, why does spending time with people tire me out? In the book, McHugh talks about introverts involvement in community being a sort of spiral. While an extrovert may start out on the edge of a community and will move into the core over time, it will look different for an introvert. I'll quote him here on what community often looks like for an introvert, because he says it better than I could:
The journey of introverts into a community, however, is better conceptualized as a spiral. They take steps into a community, but then spiral out of it in order to regain energy, to reflect on their experiences and to determine if they are comfortable in that community. They move between entry, retreat and reentry, gradually moving deeper into the community on each loop. The introverted path into community, much to the confusion of many extroverts never reaches a point in which the spiraling form is shed. The spiraling shape persists even for introverts who are thoroughly committed to a community. (pg. 94)When I first read that, it was like he was describing me. And it was encouraging to know that I'm not alone in needing large amounts of time without people around to regain energy and to reflect on things. Of course, the accompanying challenge to this is to make sure that those of us who are introverts don't pull back too far when we retreat from the group a bit. We need to make sure we're staying connected to others all the time, even in the midst of our time to regroup before we dive back in to an active community.
The chapters on leadership in the book were also good reminders that I need to be leading out of who I am. Sometimes, it can feel as though we are expected to be extroverts to be a leader and the temptation is to try to be one. But, people aren't going to follow a leader who isn't true to themselves and who they are, because in the end the introvert pretending to be an extrovert as a leader won't be able to keep it up.
There were many other insights for me in reading this book. And I would recommend it to pretty much anybody. An introverted person can be challenged and encouraged in reading it. And it can help an extroverted person to better undersand the introverts in their world. All in all, a good read.