Interview: Embracing your Leadership Style

Christelle Agboka is the director of communications at the Ontario Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, as well as a writer, editor, marketing professional and educator. Over the years, she has also taken quite an active role in her church, serving as an elder, Sabbath school teacher, AY leader, music committee member and musician. A motto she loves is: “When you learn, teach. When you get, give” by Maya Angelou, and seeks to live this out in her daily life.

“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” (Psalm 139:14)

Have you ever been misunderstood as an introvert and what has that been like?

I have frequently been misunderstood as an introvert, with people labelling me as aloof, standoffish and stuck-up without really getting to know me. People have also assumed I couldn’t do certain things, such as facilitate workshops, give presentations, lead a committee or even complete projects that didn’t require me to be outgoing!

It hasn’t been easy fighting these misconceptions while also doing my best not to internalize them. But I am comforted by the assurance that God knows my heart and He has given me the strength to do things introverts are not expected to do. He has also enabled me to connect with people who will love and accept me for me.

Can you share a story of a recent situation when you wrestled with feelings of shyness and how did you deal with it?

Recently, I experienced feelings of shyness while helping out at a health expo run by a church organization for youth. We served nearly 300 people in two days. In addition, there were several volunteers from churches across Ontario and Quebec.

The first day I acted as a gatekeeper for visitors seeking dental cleanings. The second day I registered volunteers and visitors. At times I felt like I was literally in a sea of people, which can make me feel a bit uneasy. I didn’t do anything to actively deal with my feelings, but I found that as I got more engaged in helping others and contributing to the teams I was helping, I didn’t have as much time to think about my shyness or feel self-conscious.

I would share with anyone who regularly struggles with shyness, as I do, that forgetting yourself and serving and listening to others is the best way to overcome these feelings.

Share with us some of the roles and activities you have become involved with over the years. How has this challenged you to come out of your comfort zone?

Over the years, I have been a youth leader, elder, Sabbath school teacher and musician in my church. All of these roles and activities have challenged me in different ways.

Growing up, I was too shy to teach or preach in front of my congregation and didn’t have much practice doing these things before attending my current church. But the more I engaged in these roles, the more I realized that I have a gift for public speaking and for sharing my experiences through this medium in particular. Also, I took on my first of a few youth leadership roles while a graduate student, which pushed me to interact with a lot of different personalities during committee meetings and the different programs I helped execute.

As a naturally soft-spoken person, I was pushed to be firmer in order to get things done. I would say this role was not the most comfortable for me, and I had many ups and downs, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to hone my leadership skills in this way. Finally, while I played the flute regularly as a child and teen, I stopped singing in public due to stage fright.

In my very early childhood

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Speak The Words Communications is a faith-based media platform that features stories on social issues within the community and worldwide. Through our media, we hope to showcase how faith and justice often intersect.

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