I do play along, but only because I want to be part of a community. Or better, I want to get things out of the way so that what needs to be done gets done. For me, there are only two things that need to get done at work - facilitate students to learn, think and innovate, and protect my colleagues from the shenanigans of no pay and work overload so that they can maintain their dignity and can grow as academics. Because Africa needs ideas. And there can be no ideas if the people trained to think are hassling instead. Everything I do at work boils down to those two things, but my attempt to get things done is misinterpreted as my apparent "talent" for administration, my supposed promotion, and God calling me to "leadership," because Oprah and a whole host of other motivational speakers think that leadership, changing the world and other dramatic stuff is the only way to be human.
I actually like silence. I like quiet prayers. My favorite passage of the Bible is 1 Kings 19, where God did not appear in the earthquake, the wind or the fire, but in a small voice. I like to read and think. I love beauty, color and ordinary moments like a smile, a touch, a thoughtful text, or a good poem. I do express my opinion a lot, but it's not because I want to be clever. It's because much of the stuff I comment about is what I consider an obstacle to enjoying ordinary moments. We cant have a good life when politicians are wasting money that should go to public services like transport, healthcare and education. We cant have genuine relationships when love and intimacy have been distorted by commercialization and an omnipresent, hyper-sexualized media. We cant work in dignity and live harmoniously when people are obsessed with power instead of placing focus on people. Ideas can't flourish in Africa if the institutions that are supposed to encourage them are more focused on money, power and conformity. If these evils din't happen, I would be happy to spend quiet days, marveling at God's creation, writing poetry and mentoring the young people who pass through our corridors as they blossom. Yes. I'm an introvert.
My favorite quote from Susan Cain's talk:
Interesting research by Adam Grant at the Wharton School has found that introverted leaders often deliver better outcomes than extroverts do, because when they are managing proactive employees, they're much more likely to let those employees run with their ideas, whereas an extrovert can, quite unwittingly, get so excited about things that they're putting their own stamp on things, and other people's ideas might not as easily then bubble up to the surface.
Now in fact, some of our transformative leaders in history have been introverts. I'll give you some examples. Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Gandhi -- all these peopled described themselves as quiet and soft-spoken and even shy. And they all took the spotlight, even though every bone in their bodies was telling them not to. And this turns out to have a special power all its own, because people could feel that these leaders were at the helm, not because they enjoyed directing others and not out of the pleasure of being looked at; they were there because they had no choice, because they were driven to do what they thought was right.