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A Tale of Two Leaders

A Tale of Two Leaders

President Jay Barnes and Campus Pastor Laurel Bunker

Susan Cain’s 2012 best-seller Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking sparked widespread interest for its passionate arguments supported by meticulous research. Charting the rise of the “extrovert ideal” throughout the 20th century—and how deeply it has permeated our culture—Cain argues that undervaluing introverts is a loss to all of us.

The summer edition of Bethel Magazine explores the way personality differences—like introversion and extroversion—play out in classrooms and programs at Bethel. President Jay Barnes and Campus Pastor Laurel Bunker hold highly visible roles on campus and embody wildly different approaches to life and leadership. They acknowledge and respect one another’s differences, but appreciate the way their Bethel co-leaders bring complementary skills to the table and help them expand their thinking and approaches. And though it’s not always easy to be part of such a diverse team personality-wise, they’d have it no other way. Here are their stories:

Jay Barnes, President

Sometimes the blue boxes overwhelm Jay Barnes’ calendar. Those are the times blocked off for the events, meetings, and speaking engagements that come with the job. He spends about a third of his time traveling, and when he’s on campus, he’s guiding other Bethel leaders. It’s a busy, people-centered life that sometimes feels unnatural, since he leans strongly to the introvert end of the personality spectrum.

In order to stay on top of his responsibilities and keep from burning out, Barnes has identified and learned to set aside time for activities that recharge his internal batteries. “I have to be deliberate about carving out time for routines and contemplative work,” he says. Examples are the time he spends in complete solitude or with close friends. On business trips, he often travels with his wife, Barb—something he’s come to appreciate even more with his hectic schedule.

“I can be myself and relax around her,” Barnes says. “And I need escape time—for both of us, that means nature.” They’ll carve out time for camping or hiking trips in the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota, or build in a day at the beginning or end of a hectic trip to enjoy someplace beautiful.

Jay and Barb also lead a Bible study for “young marrieds who are no longer young marrieds,” says Barnes, laughing as he realizes that some of those not-so-young-marrieds are now sending their kids to Bethel. He says the group has been a tremendous encouragement and the continuity a positive change of pace from the ever-changing, demanding world of higher education. In the Bible study and his role at Bethel, Barnes has learned to appreciate and lean into the leadership qualities that come naturally to him.

“Introverts are different from shy people. This job requires extroverted skills, but even in times where those skills are called upon, I tend to do more listening than talking,” Barnes says. “We introverts are internal processors—we think before talking out loud. That’s a huge benefit sometimes!”

Laurel Bunker, Dean of Campus Ministries/Campus Pastor

As an extrovert, Laurel Bunker’s energetic, outgoing persona suits many of her job requirements, including speaking and teaching. But she makes sure she’s approachable to all students, including the quieter ones. “I get out in the halls and touch base with students where they are,” she says. Her door is often open, and students are welcome to stop in to process something they’re going through, ask spiritual questions, or just hang out.

This intentionality flows into her workplace relationships, too. She’s a person for whom verbal communication comes naturally, but Bunker understands that’s not the case for everyone. So she makes an effort to understand and draw out the strengths of more introverted colleagues. “I’ve become a student of body language,” she says. “And I try to be a good listener, especially when working with quieter leaders.”

Bunker is also a student in Bethel’s Doctor of Education program, so she’s come to value the diversity of personalities and learning styles among fellow students. Engaging with leaders and learners in a variety of contexts has helped her appreciate their diversity more fully and also push her own boundaries. “You simply can’t lead where you’re always comfortable,” she says. As a strong leader and an extrovert, she recognizes that she can sometimes become overpowering in conversations, especially tense ones. “The key is to make space for others, lead with questions, and give others opportunities to speak up and lead,” Bunker says.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Read the full feature story about personality differences—and take a quiz to identify your own tendencies—in the summer Bethel Magazine.