Conventional lines of thought often declare that the best entrepreneurs are highly extroverted, social people. Not all successful entrepreneurs, however, are big and commanding personalities. Some of the greatest entrepreneurs are, in fact, introverts including Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, and Mark Zuckerberg. Introverts, who tend to be less concerned with leadership for personal glory, emphasize finding success in creating or building something (a company, a product, a brand, etc.), not themselves.
What Makes an Introvert?
While extroverts gain energy and stimulation from being around other people, introverts are comfortable working alone or in small and intimate groups. Extroverts tend to process information externally—meaning they prefer to talk through problems with others rather than think through them alone—while introverts process information internally.
Careful thinkers. They look and plan before they leap.
Thoughtful speakers. They usually only speak when they have something to say or something useful to add to the conversation. You’ll seldom hear an introvert engage in random chitchat.
Comfortable with independent thought and action. They rarely feel the need to seek acceptance from others when developing ideas.
Willing to allow others into the spotlight. Introverts work for themselves, not for acknowledgment or gratitude.
People with sharp observational skills. They have a high capacity for active listening and making real, deep connections with others based on their observations.
What Introverts Bring to the Entrepreneurial Table
Introverts are comfortable being alone. Introverted entrepreneurs have the discipline to spend long periods of time working by themselves. Working alone provides opportunities to think through potential alternatives and devise creative solutions to problems. Further, because they are less apt to seek external stimulation, introverts can be more focused and productive.
Introverts are less prone to “group think”. Introverts tend to be highly self-reliant and depend on their own inner compass to decide whether they are making the right business decisions. Introverts are less concerned about how others might judge their decisions or ideas. As a result, they can be more likely to question conventional wisdom and act independently.
Introverts have good listening skills. One advantage of being less prone to speak in a group setting is that you are more prone to listen to what others have to say. Introverts can be highly observant and perceptive when it comes to gathering input from clients, consumers, and employees. While an introvert may not adopt a new approach on the fly, they are more apt to give consideration to concerns voiced by others and adapting their approach to address those concerns.
Teaming Up with Extroverts
While an introvert can successfully lead a startup or small business there are business functions that an introvert may find more taxing or may more naturally lend themselves to an extroverted personality. If you are an introverted entrepreneur and you find yourself neglecting these business functions because they don’t come naturally to you, it may be worthwhile to bring somebody on to fill the role or to outsource the role.
Lead development and prospecting: Introverts may find it more difficult to reach out to potential clients, particularly if they have never met the prospect before. An extrovert’s more social predilections may make them a better fit for this role.
Business development and sales: It’s no surprise that sales positions often call for easy charm and an ability to drive home your value proposition. Extroverts very often have a leg up here and they may have better luck at closing a sale.
Recruiting: Human capital is a critical part of your business operations, but introverts may find interacting with several candidates for several hours every day taxing. A more extroverted person may be better at putting the best face on your organization and maintaining a high level of enthusiasm and interest during interviews.
Introverts do not fit many stereotypes of leaders, but their ability to focus for extended periods of time, their inclination towards balanced and critical thinking and problem-solving, and their gift of silently empowering others makes them well-suited to be entrepreneurs. A good organization, however, will make strategic use of both introverts and extroverts. Thought should be given as to how both types of person can be an asset to your business.