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Where can an introverted student gain leadership experience?

#volunteer #networking #leadership #internship #introverts

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James’s Answer

As a fellow introvert, that is an excellent question. I pushed myself to take on leadership positions. Even though it felt very uncomfortable at first, the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment far outweighed that feeling of discomfort. After a while, I sought more leadership positions. I started taking leadership classes as well as public speaking classes. That feeling of discomfort is still there but i enjoy leading so much, it doesn't bother me as much anymore. Today, I am a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army. I also suggest surrounding yourself with extroverts. They will help you come out of your shell. If you ever get to take the Myers Briggs personality test, you should. It allows you to see how much of an introvert you are so you can find those who can provide a balance.
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Sydnie’s Answer

Being an introvert, I can relate to this question. The way I found I gained leadership experience is to attend networking events, go outside my comfort zone when it comes to work activities and to embrace anyone in your life that has leadership qualities you admire.

I have had co-workers who are amazing leaders, and I watch them and see what type of body language they have, how they say things, and how they treat others. Often times, great leaders you know are willing to sit down with you and help you find that confidence and drive to get out there. There are also opportunities to watch great leaders from afar for inspiration, such as Michelle Obama, Tony Robbins, Rachel Hollis, Oprah, etc.

Finding your confidence and understanding what type of leader you want to be can help drive you forward. Research different types of leadership, and see which one resonates with you. Not all leaders must be extroverted. Lots of employees with appreciate key qualities about an introverted leader. But one thing I know from experience is that you need to flex into being an extrovert, particularly at work. It will be uncomfortable at first, but soon it will be second nature.

A great book to read around this topic is : Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Cant Stop Talking by Susan Cain

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Preston’s Answer

Toastmasters is great and was mentioned in an earlier answer; I'll offer another route too:

Find groups and clubs the organize around your hobby of choice and commit to them. This could be anything from your favorite sport, to board games, to writing, to camping. Anything. If people enjoy doing it, you can usually find a group of them doing it together.

As introverts, we're only ready to experience new things when we're with people we know, or experience new people doing things we know. Pick something you know, join a group of people doing it, and then show up and experience it. Make it a goal to be more involved than the bare minimum. Organize some the events, make plans, work with others (especially if it's a team sport)... all of these things are what leaders do on a daily basis, in the broadest sense.

Leadership is less about telling people what do to and managing others, and more about listening to your team and making informed decisions. These are skills you can practice comfortably (and without too much risk) in hobbies and while making friends with people you already know like the things you do!

Hopefully this helps!
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Tania’s Answer

People think introverted means shy. It doesn’t always. There is likely some community that introverts feel most comfortable in. It all starts with being comfortable and building confidence.

A good place to start is by finding a school club or a setting where you can be yourself. Speak up. Participate. You don’t need a fancy title at school or work to be a leader – just find the opportunities to get out of your comfort zone.

Confidence is a key piece here. Remember that not every leadership position means talking in front of thousands of people – it can mean doing something you didn’t think you were capable of or qualified for – and succeeding. Learn a new skill, strike up a conversation with a professor, join extracurricular groups, perform in front of an audience. All these things help you gain some form of spotlight, which inevitably pushes your boundaries and leads to self-growth.

–This answer combines input from a group of marketers with more than 12 years’ experience - all currently working at a global tech company. We hope you find it helpful and wish you the best in all of your endeavors.
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Katherine’s Answer

I agree with finding clubs or extracurricular activities that you find passion in and growing your leadership through those. In my experience, it is easier to find your leadership footing in something that you thoroughly enjoy and go from there!
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Melanie’s Answer

I would look into joining toastmasters international. They will help you with public speaking and it is a free service.
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Tom’s Answer

I am an introvert by nature and have been in leadership roles for the majority of my career. Part of the progression of my communication skills has been intentional but some of it has occurred naturally, just by focusing on the objectives I have needed to achieve when leading projects or teams. One common attribute shared by the majority of leaders that I have observed is the curiosity to learn and the drive for personal growth and development. If you feel that your introverted personality is a barrier to achieving a leadership role then it may be beneficial to focus on building your communicative competencies (such as teaching, presenting, emotional intelligence, facilitation) to increase your confidence. There are a multitude of resources available on these topics. You may also consider learning a skill or task exceptionally well that you feel comfortable training or teaching others about. Start with one on one training sessions until to you are comfortable with the material and the effectiveness of your communication then slowly expand to larger groups. As your communication skills and confidence increase through both educational and experiential development tactics, consider volunteering to lead a project or conduct a presentation to a larger audience. Practice your effectiveness at listening, engaging, influencing and inspiring others in all of your communication both personally and professionally. When you become confident in your communication skills and you are motivated to help others, then it likely offset your natural tendency to avoid conversations or addressing groups. Lastly, you will have to challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone if you want to progress professionally. This includes seeking out opportunities to participate in, or lead activities that require a high degree of human interaction that you would have avoided in the past. Good luck!
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David’s Answer

While I am an extrovert I have been a senior leader for many years and I can assure you that a specific personality trait does not define a leader, it is how the individual choses to use it. I have overseen many excellent leaders who were introverts. They tend to be excellent listeners and, while they speak up less, when they do say something it is more often than not extremely insightful. It is essential to be self aware of your behavior. Keep in mind that extroverts have to remind themselves not to talk too much or speak over people. An introvert will have to make themselves speak up when the situation merits it. An excellent place to obtain leadership experience is through volunteer activities, which have the added benefit of demonstrating service as well as leadership. Find volunteer opportunities in school or the community that are aligned with your passions and seek opportunities to lead teams or organize projects.
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Chiquita’s Answer

Start something. What are some of your passions are hobbies? Sometimes to become a leader you just have to take the lead. My sister is very passionate about the positive development of young girls. She started mentoring them in her living room on the weekends, which led to her being invited into to schools to, which led to her start her own nonprofit organization. However, the road was not easy, and she is still working out kinks in her program. I said that to say, even if your first attempt isn’t a huge success, this can help you develop leadership skills and drive that you can demonstrate to your employer.
I agree with Angel, volunteering is a great way to gain leadership experience. Find a community project and volunteer to take the lead .

Chiquita recommends the following next steps:

Determine your passions.
Start something.
Volunteer.
Don't give up.
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Ron’s Answer

There are many great answers, I'm chiming as a evolving introvert in just to show there are many of us and share some additional contexts!

I was told once when I was younger to be more confident and I thought that it was just a failing that I wasn't. I've learned that confidence is built over time through the accumulation of experiences. All the struggles, fears, letdowns of not knowing what I'm doing slowly gave way to the experiences and memories I have of learning through repetition, failing, and trying again telling me that, "hey, i actually can do this."

Definitely agree with others and recommend find an interesting activity or volunteering opportunity that you enjoy and start there. As you get comfortable, i would also ask the group for more responsibility or a chance to be in charge of an event, initiative, or project.

Challenge yourself to slowly extend your comfort zone vs just forcing yourself out of it. If jump a mile out of your comfort zone it may be more discouraging than trying to grow your comfort zone by an inch or two consistently.

One great opportunity may be to start your own group or organization if your school offers them! You will struggle, but you will learn a lot at your own pace.

Ron recommends the following next steps:

Find a mentor also, they can help challenge you to get out of your comfort zone if you find a good one.
If you join an group/organization, ask for opportunities to lead a small event, initiative, or project.
Start your own interest/volunteer group and start experiencing leadership first hand.
Join/create a study group and try to get your group to work together as partners vs just doing their own thing.
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Fiona’s Answer

Have you considered doing some volunteering work? Even if it is unrelated to your chosen field, usually the initiative to gain experience of this sort is looked upon favourably by employers. You can choose something where you have responsibility but does not require you to work with customers or have too much human interaction.
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Vineeth’s Answer

Being an introvert i can relate to this question. I read a lot about leadership books, listen from leaders. TED Talks are a great inspiration for me. Learn through the videos, classes. Once you have some background start networking. You can appear in virtual meetings be part of the discussions learn from others. Try to be part of Toastmasters or any other meetup groups. Slowly start taking charge of a small group.
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Angel’s Answer

Hi Olivia.

By reading all of the responses to your question, clearly all of us introverts have a lot to say about this topic! Personally, I believe introverts make great leaders because we are meticulous, observant listeners who "look before we leap !" My husband, on the other hand, is an extrovert who enjoys talking (he knows all of our neighbors by name), loves to post selfies or self-help videos on social media sites, and will not hesitate to leap first and look later (with the hope that someone recorded him so he can post it on social media and go viral!) He's definitely not camera-shy.

Volunteering is a GREAT way for us introverts to gain leadership experience. I have volunteered for many types of organizations and at many community outreach events over the years and discovered that I love being a part of something bigger than myself. The leadership experience became a natural by-product of serving others. Find causes important to you and then make yourself available to help.

Best wishes to you on your journey!
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