Introverts Have the Right Stuff to Be Strong School Leaders

Topics: Early Career Principals, Principal Leadership

The early career principal who’s somewhat reserved doesn’t have to shy away—pun intended—from the term “introvert.” Introverts gather energy from within. They see the world with clarity. They analyze. They reflect.

Sounds like a pretty great principal, especially through the lens of The Wallace Foundation’s four behaviors of effective principals: the ability to deliver effective instructional leadership, build a productive school climate, facilitate collaboration and professional learning communities (PLCs), and manage people and resources effectively.

If you have an introverted side, consider the research-backed inner strengths you can harness to become a school leader with impact.

Effective Instructional Leadership

  • With their listening skills and determination to discover the heart of a problem, introverted leaders bring out the best in others. They can uncover the root causes of underperformance—such as lack of communication, unclear goals, or challenges outside the workplace—and derive solutions from careful, collaborative review of all options.
  • Introverts have strong social and emotional intelligence, listening skills, and emotion-reading abilities, according to psychologist Susan Cain. These traits equip introverted principals with a sensitivity to signals and the finesse to motivate and empower staff.

School Climate

  • Good leaders have the ability to separate their public and private selves. Introverts harbor that talent inherently, giving them the ability to make objective workplace decisions unclouded by personal issues.
  • Everyone makes mistakes. Strong leaders admit them and offer corrective action. Introverts have the self-reflective capabilities to recognize their missteps, plus the humility to rebuild trust through genuine and transparent apologies.

Collaboration and PLCs

  • Today’s improvement-focused education settings are collaborative, inclusive, innovative, and driven by goals crafted by the entire school team. That’s where introverted leaders have an edge. Researchers have found that they’re comfortable with the ideas and strategies that others offer. They are receptive to thoughts about improving the workplace—which, in the principal’s case, is the school.

Resource Management

  • In the age of data-driven cultures, introverts take center stage. Introverted leaders value and protect their time to think and reflect. They analyze the situation and visualize all possible outcomes.
  • Faced with crucial, time-sensitive matters, principals can feel pressured to make snap decisions and bark out their orders. However, introverts have the self-awareness to step back for thorough review and cogent communication. Their clear and purposeful directions minimize confusion—and that saves time in the long run.


Learn more about the superpowers of introverts from these resources: