Roxanne R. Hallisey
Austin Peay State University
As we wrapped up a marathon officer transition meeting, I heard the incoming VP ask the incoming president a dreaded question: “After Saturday’s transition meeting, we can have our own meeting too, right?”
I watched as an overwhelmed look spread across the succeeding president’s face. “Sure,” she said quietly, knowing our next meeting might last four hours.
My duty to transition her into my former position kicked into overdrive, and I pulled her aside once everyone had gone. “Don’t be afraid to fill your cup first,” I told her. “Push that meeting to next week if you need to.”
Relief, and a smile, spread across her face.
Introverts Make Great Chapter Leaders Too!
Great leaders can be introverted or extraverted; each offer unique perspectives on what it means to lead a successful chapter. Like me, our incoming elected chapter president is an introvert. However, in a society that is comfortable with, and almost expects extraverted leaders, introverts like us may find ourselves steering clear of leadership roles or straying into extraverted tendencies that don’t always feel comfortable. So, what’s an introvert to do? My time as Austin Peay’s chapter president taught me how to translate my introversion into a leadership attribute, play on my unique skills, and facilitate a multifaceted chapter based on our members’ strengths—all of which directly correlated to our success. Here’s what I learned.
Bringing Your Skills to the Table
Introverts are often mistaken as shy or quiet. Far from the truth, the introverts I know simply require a hefty amount of alone time to “recharge,” process their thoughts and emotions, and make a game plan for their day or week. During and prior to my term, that alone time allowed me to jump-start chapter programs and events in a space where I could hear my own thoughts, foresee, and work through potential problems before taking them to the chapter and executive committee meetings. Having solutions to these issues ahead of time made for smooth planning and execution as a group.
Heading into the school year, recharge time became a priority. During these moments, I considered my own role in our chapter endeavors while also contemplating the unique strengths of our members and the collective strengths of the chapter as a whole. Playing to my own strengths allowed me to remain comfortable in my position and helped me lead our chapter to choose events that fulfilled the different desires of our members, whether it be matching members to faculty research or hosting a graduate school panel. For example, our Campus Events Committee was filled with bubbly extraverts who loved interacting with the entire student body; on the other hand, more introverted members executed our Study Days Committee where students were invited to share their knowledge in a small group atmosphere.
Large group environments may drain some introverts. As our membership grew from a few dozen to over a hundred, I began to need some of that recharge time after every chapter meeting, and so committees and small groups became an important aspect of our chapter. Each executive member oversaw one or two committees, and I felt better able to understand our members and their needs than if I had to sit with all the committees at one time—it felt more personal. And, while these small groups grew out of my love for one-on-one interactions, they also helped create stronger bonds and friendships among members too. Members additionally felt a sense of purpose and duty as they helped create and lead chapter events and programs. The success of our chapter was then created by many hands, and I kept my burn-out to a minimum by never pushing myself to being extraverted. Now that’s what I call a win-win!
The Big Lesson
As we soared through the fall semester into our biggest event, which involved more than 250 chapter and community members, the lesson of delegation became an integral part to my success as an introverted leader. Our Got Your Six Throwdown, a large-scale CrossFit competition to benefit military veterans’ mental health, demanded attention and execution from every chapter member. Athlete check-ins, gift bag assembly, ensuring our vendors had their booths up and ready to go—there was no way I could have (or should have) handled each of these aspects on my own. Delegation, coupled with those close connections, allowed our executive committee to create tasks that fulfilled each of these duties and allowed members to sign up for roles and tackle problems that matched their personalities.
Even during the planning phase, I could look to more extraverted executive committee and chapter members for decisions on seemingly extraverted tasks. The day of the event, more than 100 athletes and vendors checked-in and signed waivers with our Welcome Squad. Our treasurer, extravert and chapter comedian, Natalie headed this crew from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., all the while with a smile on her face! I, and other members, who would have been drained by that task by 8 a.m. were able to quietly assemble athlete gift bags the night before. Our most outgoing members worked our own Psi Chi table to speak to the attending public about our goals and the #Help_HelpedMe Initiative, while our introverted members signed-up to help our vendors, a more intimate task.
From Got Your Six, to other chapter events, to building standing committees, delegation became one of the most important lessons I took away from my time as Psi Chi president and an often-used tool as an introverted leader. Delegating meant that our entire chapter remained involved and grew together. A closer chapter led to more streamlined events and planning. This tool allowed me to let my introversion shine; I and others, were then able to focus on the tasks we enjoyed most, take pride in our work, and really boost our chapter’s success!
Tips for Filling Your Cup as an Introverted Leader!
It’s important to honor your introversion when you’re in a leadership position. There’s no need to feel that you must “act extraverted” during your time in a Psi Chi leadership role. In fact, keeping your cup filled helps you serve your chapter more effectively. Here are some tried and true tips I used to keep my cup filled as president:
- Delegate! Delegate! Delegate!
Does explaining Robert’s Rule of Order to the entire chapter sound like a nightmare? Delegate it to someone who loves speaking to a group! Prefer sending e-mails, but the situation calls for a face-to-face? Ask if other executive members are into it. Delegation also makes everyone feel like they have a say and keeps you from burning-out while being a team player!
- Make one-on-one time with your Psi Chi duties!
Sunday afternoons, I spent time alone to prepare for the upcoming weeks’ Psi Chi activities. Could I streamline any of my tasks? What needed to be tackled first and what could be delegated? Carving out some solo time with your work will help you feel prepared for questions, last minute changes, and help you feel confident for those times when you must be “on.”
- Get to know your team!
Ask your fellow executive team and chapter members if they’re extraverted or introverted and if there’s a task they’d love to tackle! This will help you know your chapter’s needs better, and it shows you really care. Awesome Psi Chi friendships are built on understanding!
- Use your Psi Chi tools!
Utilizing your chapter page on PsiChi.org can be an awesome way to communicate with your entire group at once! Post events, leave messages to your chapter, and direct them to the page for up-to-date events or meeting minutes. Save yourself some sanity and keep your chapter well-informed all at once.
- Be aware of burn-out!
Learn your limits. Is following an executive committee meeting with a chapter meeting too much for you? Say so! Don’t want to answer e-mails after 9 p.m. so you can focus on your studies? Let your members know! Recognizing your limits and setting boundaries around them will keep YOU effective when your chapter needs you.
- Make time for self-care!
I know, I know, everyone says this, but it’s honestly the most important tool to keeping your cup filled. If you’re empty, you won’t have any energy for your chapter. We aren’t talking about swapping Psi Chi duties for homework either (though that’s important too). Make a delicious meal for yourself, take a walk outside, take a nap! Whatever activity recharges YOU, make it a weekly appointment with yourself; you deserve it!
Being an introverted leader in a seemingly extraverted world did push me outside of my comfort zone, but in a healthy way. I learned my limits, I fostered stellar communication skills, and as someone who prefers to work alone, I realized just how awesome working in a team can be! I think introverted leaders have a unique perspective to share—attention to detail, the preference for close connection, and the ability to problem solve.
I would encourage others who are introverted to seek out leadership roles in Psi Chi. It’s a great way to hone your leadership skills and learn what feels comfortable for you so you can carry that confidence into your future career in psychology. There’s no right way to be a leader; extraverted or introverted, one way is not “better” than the other. What’s most important is getting to know yourself, your fellow chapter members, and working together to create a fun, strong, and diverse chapter that everyone feels a part of! As I move into the future, I remain grateful for my Psi Chi presidency and how it taught me, and my introversion, to become a better leader.
Become an Officer!
Boost your resumé. Build friendships with fellow psychology students. And develop meaningful relationships with advisors outside of the classroom.
Each year, thousands of students become Psi Chi officers in order to contribute to psychology and support their local communities. Whether you are interested in gaining experience in leadership, event coordination, or even social media—you can achieve the skills you seek by volunteering through your local chapter.
View 16 popular chapter officer positions at https://www.psichi.org/chap_officers. Consider which ones would be a good fit for your personal and career interests. Then, ask your local officers or advisor about the specifics for becoming a chapter officer.
Not sure who to contact? Your advisor’s name can be found at https://www.psichi.org/chapter_search.
Roxanne Hallisey is a psychology student at Austin Peay State University. She currently conducts research concerning the perceptions of psychedelics in military and veteran populations, and is collaborating with researchers at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga on a study about meaningfulness. She additionally flourishes in her studio art minor, concentrating in ceramics and enjoys her leadership responsibilities as president of APSU's Psi Chi Chapter. Upon graduation, she hopes to pursue a doctorate in clinical psychology. She enjoys, in her free time, exploring national parks and spending time in the A-frame home she shares with her husband, Josh, and their cats.
Copyright 2019 (Vol. 24, Iss. 2) Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology