Author Archives: Jennifer Doering

Nursing Needs All Hands on Deck, Including the Quiet Leadership of Introverts

Mar 2, 2012, 1:00 PM, Posted by Jennifer Doering

By Jennifer Doering, PhD, RN, Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee College of Nursing and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholar


The first time I took the Myers Briggs Type Indicator Instrument (MBTII) I was 18 and just starting the Air Force ROTC. It seemed rather obvious to my young mind there was a ‘right way’ and a ‘wrong way’ to answer the questions. I’ll admit that I outright lied and selected answers that suggested I was bold, aggressive and outspoken, thinking I knew the type of personality the military wanted officers to possess. However, even with such effort to appear extraverted, I only came out in the middle of the Introvert-Extravert (I-E) spectrum.

Fast forward 15 years. I am again sitting down to take the MBTII, this time as a new Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Nurse Faculty Scholar. Out of curiosity more than anything, I decide to be as honest as possible. It’s no surprise, then, to discover I am about as introverted as it gets. Threaded through my cohort’s week together at Outward Bound is the running joke that awareness of our I-E type allows the group’s extraverts to know better than to keep asking, ‘What’s wrong?’ when we introverts get grumpy. The MBTII exercise tells them our grumpiness means we need some alone time to ‘re-charge our batteries,’ but don’t possess the straightforwardness to simply say so.

Over the next three years, RWJF provided us with incredible leadership training. We heard words of advice, wisdom and passion from the premier leaders of our discipline and of health care. These leaders took huge risks at great personal cost and sacrifice to push forward the edge of what was possible for the betterment of nursing and humanity. They made no apology for breaking the rules in order to re-invent those rules in their image. It was a gift to learn from such bold leaders.

But as I sat through each training session, one nagging question loomed in the back of my mind: How could I harness the leadership potential RWJF saw in me if I was most happy and energized when working alone?

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