Why Introverts Make Great Entrepreneurs—Plus 5 Tips for the Entrepreneurial Introvert

What do Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg all have in common? In addition to being some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world, all three are introverts.

This may come as a surprise. After all, aren’t introverted people shy, quiet, and even anti-social? Most people wouldn’t assume introverts are the type to thrive in the fast-paced, aggressive business world. This thinking, however, is changing.

Understanding Introversion

Introversion is not the same as shyness, which is about fear of social judgment.

In fact, although they tend to find social interactions tiring and are energized by time alone, introverts aren’t easily pigeonholed as having one personality type or another. Introversion is simply one end of a personality spectrum that has its opposite in extroversion.

The terms introvert and extrovert were introduced by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung. In Jung’s view, introversion and extroversion are ways of responding to the outside world. He described introverts as preferring small groups of people to large groups, and enjoying activities such as reading, writing, and thinking.

So, while people tend to be more introverted or more extroverted, most fall somewhere in the middle. Though they may be harder to identify, introverts make up approximately one third to half of the population, or one out of every two or three people.

Introverts as Entrepreneurs

Understanding what introversion is and what introverts can achieve has changed substantially in recent years, thanks to pioneering works by Susan Cain, author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” and research by Wharton professor Adam Grant, among others. An important takeaway of the new scholarship is that self-aware “innies,” when they maximize their talents, can flourish in entrepreneurship and other fields once thought to be only the province of “outies.”

Cain, who worked as a Wall Street lawyer for many years, noticed that she struggled to adapt to the fast-paced lifestyle that seemed to come so easily to her peers, and had difficulty enjoying herself in crowded bars and large groups, feeling that she was more suited to a life of writing and quiet dinners with friends. The author-turned-public speaker admits that it took years to come to grips with her introverted nature in a culture that is strongly biased toward extroverts.

Finally heeding her intuition, Cain gave up what she calls “self-negating choices” and wrote the book that began the so-called Quiet Revolution. Her message is apparently being heard; Adam Grant, whose research on leadership is helping to further erode the stigma of introversion, recalls how he instructed two groups of Wharton MBA students, first in 2011 and again in 2013: “Raise your hand if you’re an introvert.”

In 2011, only a handful of students raised their hands. Two years later, more than a third of the students raised their hands. Grant attributes this uptick directly to Cain’s work and how it has helped do away with the perception of “introversion as a liability.”

5 Tips for the Introverted Entrepreneur

As an entrepreneur, your introversion can be a powerful tool, if used correctly.

Maybe you’re an introvert just now coming to grips with your personality, after spending years trying to be extroverted. Perhaps you’d like to take the plans you have contemplated in private, and finally make them public.

If so, you’d be wise to stop playing up to extroverted ideals, and instead maximize your potential as an introvert. By staying true to yourself, you can achieve far more than you could pretending to be someone you’re not. The important thing for the introverted entrepreneur to remember is, as Cain advises, to put yourself in the zone of stimulation that is right for you…Read more>>


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