Category Archives: Introverted Leadership

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Summit Proceedings: An Introvert’s Journey to Leadership

Category:Introverted Leadership,introverts,Leadership

One of the responsibilities for STC Summit presenters is to provide a paper for the Proceedings that are intended for use by libraries and instructors. Here’s my contribution:


Many of us might agree that Western society lauds extroverted leaders and their accomplishments. However, introverts make great contributions and can be effective leaders too. Many of us are introverts who may feel unsuited or unequipped for leadership, but are not sure how to take that next step to increase influence and improve visibility. Have you wondered how to empower yourself and leverage your innate skills to become a leader? This paper shares my personal insights and my leadership journey from shy team member to recognized leader. I’ll also share key steps I took and experiences that have helped me become a successful leader.
I am an Introverted Leader, despite outward appearances.
My introversion informs my approach to leadership.
I believe that self-understanding and leveraging introverts’
strengths have made me a better leader.

What is an Introvert?

NOTE: Please regard this section as a generalization. Individuals will differ.
Extraverts focus on the outer world of people and things. They tend to be active and have a wide breadth of interests. They understand things through experience. They may be reward seekers and desire fame. They are energized by contact and activities undertaken with others.
Introverts, on the other hand, have a rich inner thought life of ideas. They tend to have a depth of interest, preferring specialization to a breadth of knowledge. They may mull over thoughts and concepts, but not express those thoughts verbally or externally. Introverts recharge themselves by withdrawing from the hubbub to places of quiet and solitude.

How Introvert Strengths Apply to Leadership

Think of introverted leaders. Examples include Albert Einstein, Steve Wozniak, and Abraham Lincoln. What made them good leaders? Those are the characteristics introverts may want to emulate. Einstein is known for his depth and clarity of thought (and his genius). Although
Steve Jobs is the most well known leader of Apple, Wozniak was responsible for many of the innovations. Abraham Lincoln was not gregarious, yet was able to think and act strategically and provide leadership during what may have been the most trying times for the United States.

How I’ve Made it Work for Me

My strengths include my ability to identify gaps, my desire to make a difference, practicing a servant leadership model, and pursuing excellence. I’m also competitive. (That competitiveness can be both a strength and a weakness. I can push myself and others towards goals. However, I have an innate desire to win at whatever I’m engaged in.)
By no means do I consider myself to have “arrived,” but I am surprised by how far I’ve come. Most of my professional growth has come in the last 20 years. I never envisioned myself as a leader and certainly didn’t believe that I’d be able to stand in front of a crowd and still be able
to speak articulately. Although there are many formative steps I could look back on, building on small successes, reading about and better understanding introversion, understanding how I communicate best, and understanding my personality type (MBTI) have probably helped the
Growth opportunities include:
  • Overcoming conflict avoidance
  • Overcoming reticence
  • Not over-analyzing
  • Harnessing competitiveness


An introvert can employ a number of different strategies:
  • Network: Stop avoiding events
  • Understand how you work best. Get to know yourself. Take a personality assessment.
  • Let others know how you process
  • Leverage social media
  • Communicate in multiple formats
  • Recharge!
Cain, Susan. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (New York, NY: Crown), 2012.
Kahnweiler, Jennifer B. The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength (Oakland, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers), 2013.
Keirsey, David. Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence (Delmar, CA: Prometheus Nemesis Book Company), 1998.
Laney, Marti Olsen. The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World, (New York, NY:
Workman Publishing Company), 2002.
Petrilli, Lisa. The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership Kindle e-Book (Chicago, IL:C-Level Strategies), 2011.
_______, Jung Typology Test,
Accessed 4/11/2016.

Author Biography

Ben Woelk
Former Director, Society for Technical Communication; ISO Program Manager; Information Security Office, Rochester Institute of Technology; Security Guru; Introvert; INTJ; CISSP; Author of Shockproofing Your Use of Social Media: Staying Safe Online (Kindle).
From “An Introvert’s Journey to Leadership,” 2016 STC Technical Communication Summit Proceedings, 31-32

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Group Rules for Our Introverted Leadership Community

Category:Introverted Leadership,introverts,Leadership,Lessons Learned

Group Rules for Our Introverted Leadership Community

About three days into creating the Introverted Leadership virtual community on Slack, I realized it would probably be a good idea to set up group rules to create an atmosphere where we could share safely. The rules below are merged from a variety of sources.

I believe that a virtual community needs some guidelines for how to interact with each other.


I trust that none of you will take these rules personally. They’re not directed at any specific person. I just want to establish rules for conduct here before we have any issues.

I want this to be a group that builds each other up, helps us determine how to best leverage our strengths, and provides a safe place for what may become intimate discussions. Personalities are personal. Many of us are loathe to share our feelings or thoughts because we are afraid of being judged by others.

As I alluded to in my Summit presentation, introverts may have trouble talking about themselves and making themselves vulnerable in group settings. I want to encourage openness, so please read the group rules below. If you don’t feel you can abide by them, please remove yourself (or ask me to remove you) from this group.

Group Rules/Code of Conduct

  1. We are discussing introversion and personality types (among other subjects.) Please be sensitive in your comments and do not share personal information someone posts without his or her permission.
  2. Make sure to be relevant with your postings. Don’t post just to post or to have your name everywhere. Make sure that the topics you choose are relevant to the group’s interests. You can of course set up channels for whatever purpose. Use Direct Messages for conversations that don’t apply to the channel topic.
  3. Do not post inflammatory comments. Our users are established professionals. They did not join the group to argue with you. Also, posting inflammatory comments is a quick way to burn bridges in the professional community. I will not hesitate to remove anyone from this group if I believe they are not providing positive support.
  4. Do not sell to members. People do not join this Slack channel just so you can have access to spam them with personal e-mails.
  5. Do be a mentor. Sharing your expertise with others and helping them reach their goals is appreciated by all.
  6. Do not write anything in a Public Channel that you do not want out in the public. It may be a Slack channel but it is not a confidential group. Use Direct Messages for personal conversations. Only the people in Private Channels or in Direct Messages can read the content. However, anyone in a Private Channel or Direct Message is able to share that content. Do not betray trust.
  7. DO NOT use this Slack channel as your personal blog.
  8. Group moderators/admins reserve the right to ban any group member who violates either the letter or the spirit of these rules.
  9. This is group is not an official STC group.

In Closing

The essence of the rules is to maintain obstinate kindness. Maybe you’ll find them helpful for your virtual community, LinkedIn group, or forum.

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Building a Virtual Introverted Leader Community

Category:EDUCAUSE,Introverted Leadership,introverts,Leadership,STC,Summit Tags : 

Building a Virtual Introverted Leader Community

Anyone who is at all connected to me on social media has seen my Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter posts about the Introverted Leadership Slack Channel I’ve set up. I wanted to share what’s happened so far and my my vision for this nascent virtual community.


At the Society for Technical Communication Summit 2016, I presented An Introvert’s Journey to Leadership. The presentation is a brief discourse on my leadership journey and my thoughts on introverted leadership strategies based on my readings of Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won’t Stop Talking, Lisa Petrilli, An Introvert’s Guide to Leadership, David Keirsey, Please Understand Me II, many discussions with fellow leaders, and my own experience and observations at conferences and events.

My experience in in presenting An Introvert’s Journey to Leadership was profound and I was able to connect with attendees to a much deeper extent than I have experienced at other conferences. Keirsey talks about the ability for N’s to make instant connections. I saw that firsthand at Summit 2016. (I’m typically pretty reticent at home. Being able to make deep connections is not typical for me. I’m an INTJ and dread small talk.) (For those of you unfamiliar with Myers-Briggs and Jungian temperament studies, and provide an overview.) Given the positive response at Summit 2016, I really wanted to extend the experience and find a way for introverted leaders to support one another.

Planning and Action

As an INTJ, I often spend a good amount of time in analysis and planning. I didn’t feel that I had that luxury. Conference connections can be ephemeral and excitement abates. I needed to act quickly. Three weeks ago, I knew next to nothing about Slack. On May 20th, I put up a Slack channel and recruited one my new “instant N” connections, Carrie Sheaffer (who had some familiarity with Slack), to help me administer it.

We are a little over two weeks into the creation of a virtual community. We’re at 81 participants overall. We’re discussing Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won’t Stop Talking at a leisurely pace of a chapter a week. (We’re currently at 22 team members in that discussion.) We’ll choose another book relevant to introverted leadership after Cain.

Multiple Focuses

Although my primary focus was providing a forum for introverted leaders to support each other, I also saw an opportunity to create a study group for the Certified Professional Technical Communicator (CPTC) exam. We’re currently at 25 students preparing for the exam and most of us will take it in October/November.

Building the Virtual Community

I’ve built the community by reaching out to the two professional organizations in which I’m involved, the Society for Technical Communication, and the EDUCAUSE Higher Education Information Security Council Awareness and Training Working Group. (As you might imagine, there are a good number of introverts in both organizations.) I’ve also increased my LinkedIn contacts by about 200 connections to build my network and have shared An Introvert’s Journey to Leadership with that network. I don’t believe I’ve met more than 60% of the current team members face to face.

My Vision

I have developed a passion for mentoring and coaching introverted leaders. I want this virtual community to provide a place for introverted leaders to talk safely about personality, the challenges their facing, and to encourage each other. (I realized a couple of days into building the Introverted Leadership Slack channel that I needed to provide group rules that I’ll share in a future post. The rules can be boiled down to a statement Garrison Keillor made during his Radio Romance tour that he was determined to lead a life of obstinate kindness.)

I will measure success based on how much we can accomplish goals derived from “I have seen firsthand how difficult it is for introverts to take stock of their own talents, and how powerful it is when they finally do.” –Susan Cain, Quiet, p. 7,

Will we build an enduring community? The jury is still out, but I’m excited about our first baby steps. We have discussions around introverted management, personality types, the CPTC, techcomm, and even a channel set up to facilitate playing Exploding Kittens.

I’ll provide occasional updates on our progress over the coming months, and I’ll also share how well our CPTC study group does on the exam.

It’s not too late to join us! If you’re interested, get in touch. I’m not hard to find.


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Keeping the Magic of Summit Alive

Category:Introverted Leadership,introverts,Leadership,STC,Summit Tags : 


Keeping the Magic of Summit Alive

STC Summit Anaheim was my ninth Summit! For the last several years, I’ve almost always returned from Summit energized, excited to have made new connections, sad about saying goodbye to friends that I see only once a year, and full of new ideas that I want to try.

Invariably, the magic fades

The tedium/rhythm of everyday life returns, and the excitement is over. Summer is traditionally a slow period for many chapters as well, so there’s not always an opportunity to put Leadership Day recommendations in place while they’re fresh.

This year, I decided that I did not want to lose the magic so quickly.

Here’s what I’m doing to keep the magic alive

I presented An Introvert’s Journey to Leadership at this year’s conference. The presentation was about my journey to leadership and included strategies and resources for introverted leaders. Like many of the sessions, it was standing room only. I had numerous conversations with attendees, realized the impact of the presentation, and decided I wanted to continue the discussion.

  1. I’m in the process of connecting on LinkedIn and other social media with my session attendees (Names gleaned from SCHED, the social networking tool STC provided for Summit attendees.) I’m also inviting them to #2 below.
  2. I have created a Slack channel to discuss introverted leadership, personality types, and the books I recommended as resources. (The channel is open to anyone interested. Contact me and I’ll invite you.)
  3. Using that Slack channel, I’m forming a study group for the Certified Professional Technical Communicator (CPTC) exam, STC’s revamped certification program. (Initially, I was unsure what to think of certification. However, we’re living in an age when industry-specific certifications are becoming ubiquitous.) I received my Certified Information Systems Security Professionals (CISSP) designation last year, so why not add a CPTC? I’ve also been talking to security professionals about techcomm basics, so it makes sense for me to have the certification I’m recommending.
  4. I’m doing selected follow-up conversations with connections, aka peeps, made at Summit. Individual followup provides an opportunity to strengthen these new connections and to determine how I, as a seasoned leader, can best support them. (I have a passion for mentoring and coaching new leaders.)
  5. The Rochester Chapter is holding an end of year celebration of our Community Achievement Award recognition as Community of the Year, Platinum Community, and Pacesetter Community. We’re going to share our best takeaways from Summit.


It’s less than one week after Summit. I’m writing this now because I need to get my thoughts together before they fade.

What are you doing to keep the magic alive?

Here’s another blog post from STC Director, Alisa Bonsignore!

After STC Summit


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An Introvert’s Journey to Leadership

Category:Introverted Leadership,introverts,Leadchange,Leadership,Lessons Learned,Presentations,STC,Summit,techcomm Tags : 

An Introvert’s Journey to Leadership

I had the privilege of presenting An Introvert’s Journey to Leadership at the STC Summit Conference in Anaheim. I was a bit apprehensive about the presentation, because I was talking about myself and sharing stories that made me vulnerable. (As an introvert, that’s not something I’m comfortable doing.)

The response was amazing. For those two days of the STC Summit and the week afterwards, I have made more and meaningful connections than I’d made in years. My next post will talk about how I’m trying to keep the discussion going.


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