I’ve never considered myself much of a leader. I like to stay out of the spotlight and play a supportive role. Part of it’s shyness/anxiety, part of it’s a normal trait of my INFJ personality type. Recently, though, I’ve found myself accidentally winding up in leadership roles.
For many introverts, especially if you’re shy and/or struggling with anxiety, this probably sounds like a recipe for a full-blown panic attack. But it’s actually going pretty well, and maybe you’ll find some of the things I’m learning encouraging if you ever find yourself in a similar situation.
It All Started With Dancing
I joined the dance team at my Messianic church several years ago, and within a year most of the dance team moved on to other things and there was just three of us left. New people quickly joined, but I suddenly found myself one of the most experienced dancers in the group. I had to keep learning quickly if I wanted to help teach, so it ended up making me a better dancer.
Then our dance leader started leaving me in charge when she had to be gone for a weekend. She even when to Alaska for a few weeks and turned keys, music files, instruction DVDs, and choice of what to dance each week over to me. I thought I’d spend most of the time panicking, but I didn’t and things went pretty well. I discovered I actually can handle being put in charge of something where I have to work with other people.
Fast-forward to now. Since the end of last year, I’ve found myself acting as game master for a table-top RPG group, I’m leading a book club at church, and I’m planning a senior’s recognition event to honor the older members of our congregation. What’s more, I’m actually enjoying myself and I’m not terrible at filling these roles. How on earth did this happen to a shy introvert struggling with social anxiety?
Learning To Lead In Your Own Way
Like I said already, being in charge of things is rarely my idea. I have organized church events like the senior’s recognition luncheon before, but even that doesn’t require me to do much “leading.” It’s more of a coordinator role, at least the way I’ve handled it.
I think the main thing that I’m learning from these new responsibilities is that I have to find my own way of doing things. If I try to be a loud, in-your-face, take-charge sort of leader I’m not only going to shock the people who know me but I’m also going to feel inauthentic. And the more I feel like an imposer, the less capable I am of managing my anxiety.
One question I asked myself is, “What do I want a confident version of me to look like?” I’m still pondering this, but I’ve come up with a few things so far. Confident-Me is able to share her thoughts and ideas without getting defensive or freaking-out that people will judge me. Confident-Me isn’t threatened by other people disagreeing and holds space for their concerns and suggestions. Confident-Me also takes action to cultivate harmony in the groups I’m leading rather than hiding while things fall apart or get off-track because I’m scared of initiating any sort of conflict.
Do I manage to act like Confident-Me all the time? No. But it is starting to get easier to bring that version of my authentic self into these new leadership roles. I’m hoping it will continue to get easier. And I hope if you’re a shy, anxious introvert who ever finds yourself in charge of leading people, you’ll find some encouragement in my story.
Have you ever accidentally ended up in a leadership role? How did you handle it? Do you have any tips to share with us?