In Praise of Small Business Introverts

on July 26, 2017

What do these people have in common?

  • Bill Gates
  • Albert Einstein
  • Emma Watson
  • Rosa Parks
  • Warren Buffett

You bet. They are all introverts. And in actuality, that shouldn’t be surprising. Introverts observe. Introverts think before they speak. They are the ones who can write code and divine the cosmos, who have the quiet strength and confidence to not give up their seat.

And, as it so happens, introverts are also the ones who make the best CEOs. According to a recent piece in the Harvard Business Review, a recent 10-year research project concluded that, after studying 2,000 CEOs, the majority of successful CEOS were introverts.

Of course, this flies in the face of the conventional wisdom that entrepreneurial success depends on being an outsize, Richard Branson type of brash, outgoing, loud, fun, back-slapping, joke-telling, gregarious personality. The salesman. The huckster. The yuckster.

Now don’t get me wrong, no doubt there is a spot at the table for that type of entrepreneur, but let’s tap into the zeitgeist for a moment and ask this question:

If you have ever seen the fantastic HBO show Silicon Valley, the question is: Who would you rather work for – Ehrlich Bachman or Richard Hendricks? Bachman is your quintessential stereotypical fun, loud, blowhard, extroverted entrepreneur who, while maybe good in a meeting, is not so much in the office. Richard, the painful introvert, while uncomfortably and hilariously awkward at pitch meetings, nevertheless quietly fosters confidence and loyalty among the troops.

So, what then does the introvert leader have that maybe the extroverted one does not?

They listen well: An often under-the-radar trait that separates the good leader from the great one is that the great ones listen. By their very nature, that describes the introvert.

They are modest: People with humility, who are modest and humble, are, as I said, content to let others get the spotlight. That is a very attractive trait in a leader.

They are thoughtful: This is in the job description for both the introvert and also the best leaders. You want someone who does not make quick, impulsive decisions. Instead, you want a leader who thinks things through and decides based more on fact and less on impulse and emotion.

They don’t require external affirmation: Extroverts, by their very nature, need external validation. Introverts however do not live for that, indeed quite the opposite. They trust their (well thought-out) judgment.

They aren’t rash: Introverts take their time. They think things through. They take thoughtful action and make prudent decisions.

In the end, maybe it’s the one and only Jimi Hendrix who got it right:

“Excuse me while I kiss the sky?”

No, you extrovert! Rather,

“Knowledge speaks but wisdom listens.”