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Breaking the stereotype: Why introverted leaders make great business owners
Posted by Grace Townsley
May 4, 2023
Are introverts capable of being successful small business owners? Do the world’s quietest leaders have what it takes to inspire their employees, engage their audience, and lead an initiative that leaves a lasting impression on their market?
At first glance, it may seem like the spotlight is always on extroverted leaders — those who connect quickly, communicate openly and network at a breakneck pace. However, some research suggests that the most introverted leaders just might have the potential to be the most successful.
If your leadership style is more understated than life-of-the-party, read on!
In this article, we’ll discuss what makes introverted leaders particularly powerful, take a look at three successful leaders who are introverts, and share a few practical tips to help you maximize your entrepreneurial superpowers.
What is an introvert?
An introvert is someone who tends to focus their attention on their own internal ideas, thoughts, experiences and enjoyments, instead of focusing on what’s happening around them. They gravitate towards small groups of close friends, rather than large parties or surface-level relationships. And introverts gain energy by being alone with their work or collaborating with a small team of trusted peers.
It’s estimated that 25% to 40% of the general population is naturally introverted. But surprisingly, as much as 30% to 70% of business leaders and CEOs are introverted professionals. These statistics show that the share of introverts in high-level leadership positions is likely to be much higher than the share of introverts in the general population. That suggests this personality type may be particularly fit for leadership roles — if that natural tendency can be channeled into connections, collaboration and the execution of great ideas.
If you’re unsure whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, these questions can give you a good idea of your natural leaning:
How do you feel after spending time at a party or big get-together? Excited and energized or drained?
Do you prefer group work or one-on-one projects?
Do you enjoy meeting new people and engaging in small talk, or are you overwhelmed by networking?
Are you quick to try new things, or prefer to stick with your tried-and-true preferences?
By answering these questions, you may gain some insight into your broad personality type — and go-to leadership style.
These three leaders prove that any personality type has the opportunity to be successful
You may be surprised to learn that these three well-known leaders are actually introverted — despite their public lives and vast networks of connections.
In 1975, Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard to build his business. Today, Microsoft has a market cap of over $2 trillion, and Gates’ net worth has passed $120 billion — despite his preference for quiet afternoons, solo work and small groups. Here’s his advice for introverts struggling to lead:
“You better learn what extroverts do; you better hire some extroverts and tap into both sets of skills in order to have a company that thrives both as in deep thinking and building teams and going out into the world to sell those ideas.”
Former President Barack Obama
While not a business owner, former President Barack Obama is a great example of a natural introvert who learned to socialize on a global scale. While in office, he was known for actively engaging in social events, but retreating to his private office for hours at a time to rest and recharge after his engagements.
As the founder of the global nonprofit, Teach for All, Kopp has spent the past few decades expanding access to education. Despite her introversion, she has successfully motivated thousands of teachers, leaders and donors to support education, and change the lives of children around the world.
Curious how you can transform your introversion from a hindrance into your biggest business strength? Try these three tips.
If your introverted nature is holding you back from reaching your business goals, these three strategies can help:
1. Focus on quality over quantity in networking: If attending large networking and industry events is more draining than effective, focus on developing meaningful connections with a strategic handful of peers and professionals. One-on-one interactions and smaller gatherings can be just as beneficial to your career, and give you the opportunity to play to your strengths.
2. Connect through written communication: While introverts may struggle to articulate their ideas and make connections through conversation, they often excel at written communication. Focus on writing conversational emails, articles, and social media posts when sharing your ideas, casting vision and encouraging your teams.
3. Delegate and collaborate: One of the best ways to compensate for your introverted tendencies is to surround yourself with extroverted peers that complement your strengths and fill in the gaps. Try delegating your social and connection-focused tasks, and collaborate with others when possible to avoid feeling overwhelmed or exhausted by interactions.
Remember, being an introvert doesn’t disqualify you from becoming a successful leader! In fact, as you can see from examples like Bill Gates, Barack Obama and Wendy Kopp, introverted leaders can achieve incredible success by focusing on their strengths, delegating areas of weakness, and collaborating with peers who make them better. By embracing and channeling your best qualities, you can become an effective leader and reach your biggest business goals.
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This material has been prepared for informational purposes only. Escalon and its affiliates are not providing tax, legal or accounting advice in this article. If you would like to engage with Escalon, please contact ushere.
As a professional copywriter in the finance and B2B space, Grace Townsley offers small business leaders big insights—one precisely chosen word at a time. Let's connect!