Leadership Center

Introverts, Servant Leadership and Networking

By Anthony Arbogast posted 12-03-2019 09:19



Yes, we can jump off with that. Hi, I am Tony Arbogast and I am a naturally introverted person. However, I love being around other people and I actually do not consider myself shy, but I tend to be on the quiet side, listen more than I speak and have to “gear up” a little for networking/socializing. I have learned to make myself comfortable with being uncomfortable. If stats hold true, then somewhere between 30-50 percent of you reading this probably feel the same way.

I remember the first time I became concerned that my more introverted tendencies might limit me as a business official. I was about a year into my CSBO program and decided to attend the Illinois ASBO golf outing before the Annual Conference. I did so because I enjoy the sport, and like many private sector students, was looking to make some connections in hopes of landing my first school business job. I knew all of two people on a first name basis in Illinois ASBO at this point, and neither happened to be there, nor were any of my classmates. The golf was the easy part, I was paired with a few single golfers and we at least had the game in common. The reception that followed however, grew increasingly more difficult.

As an introvert, it isn’t that we are paralyzed by social situations, but these situations can really take it out of you. Here, everyone seemed to know everyone else, and I knew no one. About 20 minutes in, I received an email from my then job in Higher Education, and decided it was the perfect time to step outside, respond and slip out for the night. It was a bit disheartening; you hear how important the Illinois ASBO network is to our success, and at that point my first experience was a pretty big flop. Networking is hard when it doesn’t come natural for you, and even harder when you are the new face in the room. As I got to the door, then President Susan Harkin reached out, told me not to leave and introduced me to a few people. Then they introduced me to a few more people. I stayed a few hours and left with a belief that I was in the right place.

I had studied leadership pretty extensively before this. I was a managing director who would run trainings for hundreds of employees at a given time. But this was different; I had no safety net. I was in a new industry that I really wanted to be a part of, seeing people I wanted to get to know. That day I learned more about leadership than I could have expected. The first was as an introvert, I had to get comfortable being uncomfortable. In the private sector, I was respected because of the work I had accomplished. Here I was starting from ground zero. I saw the power of this network and knew I would need it in order to succeed. I also saw through that interaction with Susan that when the time came, I had to be ready to tap a shoulder and be there for the next in line.

“I have learned to make myself comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Introverts Make GREAT Servant Leaders

This position has made me realize that introverts can naturally make great servant leaders! If you are unfamiliar with Servant Leadership, the basic, oversimplified concept is that the leader does not lead for ego or to better themselves, but to serve a greater purpose while empowering their employees and teams. It is the mission of the job that drives a servant leader. As introverts, we fit this mold naturally. We generally are not looking to be in the spotlight but are passionate about our jobs and the work we are doing. We listen before we leap. We do not want to lead by positional power, so we lead by motivation and example.

Servant leaders and school districts make great partners. Servant leaders are, simply stated, called to serve. They act ethically, put others first, help others grow and develop. You could argue that it is hard to flourish in our roles if we are NOT servant leaders. It is hard pressed to get the most out of your team, for your district if you are leading as an alpha-style, fear driven leader. Think about the bosses you have worked the hardest for. If you have worked in a fear driven position, you do enough to not get terminated. However, when you have a boss that is driving your passion, showing you the value in your work, you strive more and work harder.

As an introvert in this position, it can be intimidating with all of the networking, public speaking, negotiating, being challenged when holding the line, being the financial steward of our districts. But we have to remember introverted is not a weakness. Being an introvert has nothing to do with being thin skinned, or fearful. To modify a quote by Al Capone “Don’t mistake your kindness, or quietness, for weakness”. And no, Al Capone was probably not categorized as a servant leader.

As introverts, we are naturally good listeners. Our “weakness” of not always wanting to be the voice is a strength if we allow ourselves to absorb while we listen. We are analytical and reflective, skills that don’t seem so bad when making multi-million-dollar recommendations.

Introverts and Networking

Somewhere during the last 18 months, Illinois ASBO has begun to have that same “safe” feeling that I had in the private sector. I have learned that Susan did not stop me at the door because she was the Illinois ASBO President, she stopped me because that it is what Illinois ASBO does. The hardest part was introducing myself. The relief that followed by being accepted into this family of professionals made every other event that much easier. 

When you allow yourself to get to that comfort level, it makes the networking enjoyable and fun rather than something you need to “gear up” for. Knowing how powerful your network is, be it through Illinois ASBO or your other local districts, is something we must push ourselves to become comfortable with.

"The hardest part will always be the first 'hello.'"

By Anthony Arbogast
Asst. Supt./Finance & Operations, CSBO
Roselle SD 12



03-01-2020 16:34


Great share, The Servant Leader movement is awesome.  I actually just read the last year The Serving Leader by Jennings and Stahl-Wert.  It was an excellent story, my favorite part was the Upending The Pyramid design of the philosophy.  My ego was, is really, a constant battle everyday.  Handling my day preemptively has been my starting point to manage that reactive ego.

Thanks, Marcus

01-31-2020 22:05

Wonderful insight Tony.  I must share,  when I  tapped you on the shoulder,  you helped me without hesitation. I  appreciate all you've done in supporting me.  As my CSBO internship supervisor,  you maintained the same hospitality that was rendered to you, so Susan's tap, touched more than one shoulder through you.  To sum it up, thank you and all the IASBO leaders who endeavour to continue to build to this great community.

01-31-2020 10:07

Thank you for being courageous enough to bring this topic forward. Many people can relate to it.

12-20-2019 13:40

Thank you for sharing your story Anthony!