Introverts can be successful leaders with curriculum changes

By Minju Park

Introverts are often misconstrued as anti-social, silent personalities who avoid all kinds of social activity. However, this is an enormous overarching generalization that inaccurately depicts introverts in a negative perspective.

Introverts are not catered to in terms of their learning styles and preferred thought processes in the workplace or in a classroom setting. This limits introverts and prevents them from becoming leaders in our society.

The general public views introverts as the stereotypical nerd in television series and movies. This is often because the complex nature of an introvert is hard to depict and distinguish without actually understanding their thought processes and behaviors. For example, it’s easy for one to quickly label an introvert as anti-social rather than realizing that some introverts value alone time to recharge themselves.

In fact, according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator results — which test personality type with a set of carefully selected questions — about an average of 50.7 percent of Americans are introverts. Many individuals don’t seem to recognize their introvertism because a personality is usually a mixture between extroverted and introverted tendencies.

Based on the fact that the majority of Americans are introverts, it’s puzzling how most workplaces and school curriculums centralize their paths of learning and creativity around an extroverted mindset. Many of our social constructs in school or the workplace are largely focused around the idea of groupthink, which “holds that creativity and productivity come from a very gregarious place.”

From groupthink stems the idea of holding meetings to brainstorm new ideas and open-plan offices to facilitate collaboration. Collaborating ideas between individuals rather than allowing for individualistic thinking is a distinct extroverted tendency.

This phenomenon also appears in class, where students are led through a vigorous schedule of socializing with little room for a reflection period, which is crucial for introverts. Instead, this kind of system only prioritizes social interaction as the path that will lead students to success.

In addition, many teachers enforce the criterion of mandatory participation from students. However, participation in the classic classroom setting is fulfilled only by the outward spoken language. In order to allow introverts to learn and succeed in their individualistic ways, the definition of participation should broaden to include students taking in-depth notes during lectures or students coming to ask questions after class.

Susan Ogwal, a teaching assistant in the department of communications, leads a class in public speakingJT, which aims to help students gain the skills to confidently iterate their thoughts to a large group of people. She said that in her class, participation is largely based on “being able to answer questions in class, raising their hand, giving impromptu speeches, group activity (and) interacting with each other.”

“(Students) have the opportunity as an introvert to be able to work on your public speaking skills, and even as an extrovert to fine-tune your public speaking skills,” Ogwal said.

The fact that a public speaking class exists to allow introverts to build up an extroverted skill really reveals the state of our society in which an extroverted personality has built up to become the ideal personality, the one in which many professional careers are searching to find and recruit.

However, these constructs don’t appeal to the working or thinking styles of the majority of the American population — we need to keep in mind that about 50 percent of the population are introverts. This will put a majority of workers and students at a disadvantage, preventing them from succeeding to their fullest potential.

This is disheartening because introverts make just as capable leaders as extroverts. Research by Adam Grant from the Wharton School reveals that introverts are more open and supportive of new ideas, while extroverted leaders tend to implement more control over the fluidity of ideas. 

While introverts fare well in an environment in which encouragement and support of free thinking is necessary, extroverts fare better in a situation in which charisma and a unification of a group is required.

It’s clear that we need both types of leadership in the community. Although there’s been a strong support of extroverted individuals to cultivate their learning and thinking styles, many introverts have been suppressed in terms of their ability to grow.

Certain changes should be implemented in the adult professional field. Allowing for individual cultivation of ideas can be enforced through more sectioned-off workplace plans or even weekly one-on-one meetings, as opposed to large group meetings.

Although there has been a misconstrued depiction and understated importance of introvertism in our society, it can be changed through better awareness of the differences in personality between individuals.

Through the continual understanding of introverts and introverted thinking, we can work to create a more inclusive, innovative and thriving society.

Minju is a freshman in LAS.

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