The idea that only extroverts can be successful in the business world is a myth. After all, succeeding in business requires the ability to solve problems and make decisions. Neither one of those requires a person to be particularly outgoing or gregarious. When we think of introverts, we think of people who are shy, quiet and reserved. This isn’t the sort of personality type you would expect to succeed as an entrepreneur. The reality is that introversion is misunderstood. It doesn’t need to be a handicap—in fact, it can be an advantage if you follow the right strategies.
Research shows that close to 50% of the U.S. population are introverts. Carl Jung, who advanced the theory on introverted and extroverted personality types, noted that none of us are entirely introverted or extroverted. Each of us is on a spectrum, having a different combination of introversion and extroversion. While introverts used to be viewed as being shy and timid, introversion and extroversion relate to where people get their energy. Introverts get their energy from spending time by themselves while extroverts gain energy from being around other people. Fortunately, books like Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain and research by Wharton professor Adam Grant have helped to eliminate the stigma associated with introversion.
There is a misconception that only extroverts are successful business owners. Not true! In fact, some of the most famous entrepreneurs in the world are introverts. For example, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, J.K Rowling, Warren Buffet and even Elon Musk is a self-described former “introverted engineer.” Elon Musk said, “I’m basically like an introverted engineer, so, it took a lot of practice and effort to be able to go up on stage and not just stammer basically…as the CEO, you kind of have to.” The truth is, introverts make great business leaders and entrepreneurs. You can be an introvert and still be a confident decision maker and problem-solver. In a recent study, analysts spent 10 years examining the personalities of 2,000 CEOs and concluded that the majority of the successful ones were introverts. The most important finding of the study called the CEO Genome Project, was that successful chief executives tend to exhibit four specific behaviors that prove integral to their performance including:
These behaviors aren’t exclusive to extroverts. In fact, introverts tend to excel at things like building relationships because they are good listeners and observers.
So, if you’ve been thinking about being an entrepreneur but feel hesitant because you consider yourself an introvert, here are three tips for you:
1.) Focus on your strengths
When deciding what business you’d like to start, make sure you capitalize on your strengths—especially those strengths that you enjoy. For example, maybe you like writing, researching or mentoring—whatever it may be, you can definitely use those strengths in multiple business settings. If you hate networking events, don’t go! There are hundreds of ways to promote a business, so focus on those activities that are most comfortable for you. Remember, being an introvert can be a huge asset rather than a liability.
2.) Supplement your weaknesses
If you’re an introvert, you may want to consider finding additional support in those areas in which you are lacking. For example, if selling isn’t your strong suit, perhaps you can find a business partner who is a fantastic salesperson that will complement your personality and skill set. Also, you may want to outsource some projects that you may not be as comfortable with to a freelancer or agency. If there are things that you want to do that you don’t excel in, like public speaking, get a coach and start practicing. Even Warren Buffet had a fear of public speaking, and he managed to overcome it. Don’t let your weaknesses stand in the way of your goals.
3.) Take time to recharge
Introverts need a certain amount of alone time to inspire creative thought and recharge their batteries. You may enjoy being around people, but too much socializing feels like “overstimulation.” Carve out some time alone, so you aren’t in danger of burning out. Being your own boss means that you have the flexibility to create your own schedule, so take advantage of it.
In short, don’t be intimidated to start your own business because you’re introverted. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses will help you thrive as an entrepreneur.
Introverts have unique gifts that deserve to be shared with the world, so just go for it!
Caroline is a business & life coach who enjoys helping people escape their 9-5 jobs so they can find fulfillment working for themselves. Visit CorporateEscapeArtist.com to learn more.