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From the time I was little, our extended family explained my quietness as, “Bobby is shy, just like his Dad.”


Their tone conveyed to me that I was to be pitied, like a person with a disability through no fault of their own. I didn’t want to be shy, but I sure didn’t want to have people focus on me or worry about me. In our private family times my dad nicknamed me “Gabby” because I offered monosyllabic answers to his questions. To me “OK,” “Fine”, or “Yes” were complete sentences.

Shyness is usually associated with being quiet, insecure, and/or socially anxious. Being shy is not necessarily bad. Certainly my experience is evidence that a person shy by nature can function effectively in leadership roles.


Society has long had a bias that great leaders must be bold or assertive rather than shy or introverted. But both history and research have shown us that shyness can shine in leadership roles and brings a value that assertiveness may lack. Shyness is a fear of negative evaluation and, in some instances, is a milder form of social anxiety.

True leadership stems from individuality that is honest and sometimes imperfectly expressed. Leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection.

I find a good measure of comfort in knowing that Kate Middleton is shy and introverted. She lives her life on the world stage and is one of the most loved Royals.

After seeing her speak at countless other events, it’s hard to believe that the duchess isn’t a natural-born public speaker. Hats off to the future Queen.

Self Assessment

About 15% of babies are born with a tendency to be shy. Research from scientists shows that there are biological differences in the brains of shy people. However, not all shy people are phobic. Answer the following three questions in terms of how true they are for you on a scale of 0 to 4, where 0 is “not at all” and 4 is “extremely present.”

  • Does fear of embarrassment cause you to avoid doing things or speaking to people?
  • Do you avoid activities in which you are the center of attention?
  • Are being embarrassed or looking stupid among your worst fears?

Generally, total scores of 6 or higher are indicative of possible Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). 

Situations where you might find yourself being more prone to shyness:

  • Public speaking, e.g. class presentations
  • Meeting new people
  • Going to a new place
  • Eating in public
  • Exams
  • Performing
  • Talking to someone important, e.g. your boss

Symptoms of Shyness

  • Quietly and passively
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Speaking quietly
  • Nervous behaviors, such as touching your hair or face a lot, tapping your toes on the ground, clicking a pen over and over, biting your nails etc.

The World Needs Shy Leaders

Shy and introverted people tend to be incredibly active listeners.

They’re skilled in observing and identifying character traits in others, which helps them to successfully lead various personality types. Introverts are also more likely to be honest and humble, show greater receptivity to suggestions from others, and often take a moment to process their thoughts before acting.

Additionally, shy and introverted people tend to be more self-sufficient and independent.

Ways to Cope With Shyness

Prepare a topic for conversation. If you are shy, casual conversations can stress you out. Even if you have a lot to say on a particular topic, your thoughts and worries about how others in the conversation will see you can spur insights or witty comments on the topic. out of your head. Thinking about what you might talk about with new people can really help the conversation and any awkward feelings. It helps to pick a topic that the other person is familiar with. Get interested in it. Learn a few things about it. Ask good questions out of interest.

Smile (not a Sheldon Cooper smile) and be friendly. You are more likely to be friendly to someone who smiles at you, so try it yourself. Opening yourself up to people can make them feel more comfortable and more likely to be friendly in response. It works.

Practice social skills. Start practicing your social skills one at a time. Try smiling at someone or saying ‘hi’ and keep practicing at home until you feel confident to try it out in a social situation.

Worse case scenarios.

It helps to run through some of the worst things that could happen. If you can take the worst you can make the connection. Doing so helps you realize that they might not be as bad as you initially thought and would also prepare you for these situations if they were to happen. In case something embarrassing does happen, allow it to happen and laugh about it. That in itself is courageous.

“I’m shy.” This is scary. The level of vulnerability required to self-identify as shy is enormously deep. However, letting other people know that you are shy can sometimes make the situation more comfortable.

Reward yourself. It’s extremely helpful to tell yourself that you did well after you’ve been in an uncomfortable situation. My biggest struggle is focusing on what didn’t go right. A misspoken word, a forgotten point, or what I imagined to be a funny story that fell flat. I have to remember that sometimes things can go wrong, and instead of focusing on the fails, to shift my focus to the things that DID go well. And then enjoy something rewarding.

Like Kate and even me, shy women and men may find it “challenging” to mix in the public spotlight, but to others you look like you’re fulfilling the role you were born to play: leader.


One of the most popular books about introverts and leadership is Quiet by Susan Cain. Cain talks about the “power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking,” and I find it very inspirational.

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Bob Jones

Happily married to Jocelyn for 44 years. We have two adult sons, Cory and his wife Lynsey and their son Vincent and daughter Jayda; Jean Marc and his wife Angie and their three daughters, Quinn, Lena and Annora. I love inspiring people through communicating, blogging, and coaching. I enjoy writing, running, and reading. I'm a fan of the Double E, Bruins, Celtics, Red Sox and Pats. Follow me on Twitter @bobjones49ers


  • Julie MacKenzie says:

    I know that most people who know me now…would never think I was shy. But, as a child I was very shy. My big brother called me a mouse. What brought my social personality into the forefront…was becoming a Jazzercise Instructor in my 20’s. (A dance fitness program) It really helped me blossom into a very outgoing confident person. There is no way you can lead a class of 40-50 people, depending on you to teach them dance steps while getting a great workout…by being shy & quiet. I became a megaphone (even though I used a microphone) LOL! It was the best thing that I ever did for myself. I taught that dance fitness program for 4 years (4 nights/week)…and I was employed at The Cross Cancer Institute as a Dietary Technologist at the same time. I was very busy. Working at The Cross also taught me things that I could never learn in a book. Empathy, compassion, dealing with life & death constantly while I visited my patients every day. I was only 19 & already an “old soul” to begin with. But, I was supervising employees 2 & 3 times my age. I grew up pretty fast. I also lost my Dad to pancreatic cancer shortly after I started working there. It’s amazing the changes we all go through as we experience life & jobs. As we have to pull qualities out of ourselves…that perhaps, we never knew we could handle. Thank you for the blog this morning Pastor Bob. I could relate to the article.

  • Bob Jones says:

    This is so good, Julie. Dance! You are right. But it must have taken a lot for you to start. That first group session not knowing how you would feel in front of 40-50 people. Way to go! Keep dancing.

  • Julie MacKenzie says:

    It was so stressful & nerve-wracking. But, I had to remember that I knew the choreography to the routines & they didn’t. They were my students…so, they had to follow what I did. Although, we did the same set of routines for a month…then I had to learn a new set. My regulars would get to know the routines & sometimes I would look out & they would remind me of what steps would come next…if I was “zoned out” after a long day at work. I loved it! But, taught my last class when I was pregnant with my first child. My last day at The Cross was a Friday…taught my last Jazzercise class on that Thursday & went for a walk down Candy Cane Lane with a bunch of friends on the Saturday…& had my baby on the Monday Morning. (December 20, 1989). Then maternity leave for 4 months. Thanks Pastor Bob, for the constant encouragement. Keep on, keeping on. I love reading your blogs. ❤️

  • Charmaine Dy says:

    I am a shy, introverted person Pastor Bob, so it’s taking a big leap for me to even post this. I just wanted you to know that I enjoy all your posts, but this one in particular spoke to me. I truly value and appreciate your quiet charisma.

  • Bob Jones says:

    Charmaine, I relate to the magnitude of your post so “thank you” seems understated. But a HUGE Thank you for posting. And now that you’ve broken the ice please join the conversation again. We need to stick together and hear from each other.

  • Ara says:

    I can relate to you Bob! I was very shy growing up. I liked to listen to people talk but not join in the conversation. I didn’t know I was shy until people called me shy and it always seemed like a negative trait. Public speaking was my worst nightmare. BUT…I felt a strong calling to the field of law. I feel that it was a God-given calling because how could someone who was shy and didn’t like to talk want to be a lawyer! With lots of prayer and perseverance my confidence grew as I focused on my educational and career goals and now I boldly speak on behalf of others in a court of law and advocate for my client’s interests.

  • Bob Jones says:

    Hi Ara! Thank you so much for joining the conversation. Wow! Your story is absolutely inspiring. Who in the courtroom would believe that you are shy? I hope young people get to read your comment and know that they may be shy but that is not an impediment to a calling to public influence. Lawyers. Politicians. Pastors. Advocates.
    I hope you’ll lean in. And I would love to tell your story to inspire others. Can we talk?

  • Myrna Gray says:

    Bob you are such a great leader and also a great listener. I admire that about you. You have a good way of communicating with people as well.

  • Bob Jones says:

    We go back a long way, eh? Great memories from CPT. I hope you and Lorne are having a wonderful winter. Looking forward to seeing you at Sunnyside!

  • Adena Lowry says:

    Being quiet and an introvert doesn’t necessarily make a person shy. There is so much wisdom in being quiet and waiting for the proper time to speak. Quiet allows for self reflection and the “ simmering “ of ideas. It allows feelings to be assessed. The Lord asks us to wait on him. When we wait to speak, we can choose wisely the ideas we wish to convey .

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