(p. R1) . . . , numerous entrepreneurs and CEOs are either self-admitted introverts or have so many introvert qualities that they are widely thought to be introverts. These include Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, Larry Page, co-founder of Google, Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook, Marissa Mayer, current president and CEO of Yahoo, and Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.
As entrepreneurs, introverts succeed because they “create and lead companies from a very focused place,” says Susan Cain, author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” and founder of Quiet Revolution, a website for introverts.
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Many people believe that introverts, by definition, are shy and extroverts are outgoing. This is incorrect. Introverts, whom experts say comprise about a third of the population, get their energy and process information internally. Some may be shy and some may be outgoing, but they all prefer to spend time alone or in small groups, and often feel drained by a lot of social interaction or large groups.
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Introverts not only have the stamina to spend long periods alone–they love it. “Good entrepreneurs are able to give themselves the solitude they need to think creatively and originally–to create something where there once was nothing,” says Ms. Cain. “And this is just how introverts are wired.”
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While extroverts are networking, promoting or celebrating success, introverts have their “butt on the seat,” says Laurie Helgoe, author of “Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength” and assistant professor in the department of psychology and human services at Davis & Elkins College in Elkins, W.Va. “An introvert on his (p. R2) or her own is going to enjoy digging in and doing research–and be able to sustain him- or herself in that lonely place of forging your own way.”
They don’t need external affirmation
Another important characteristic of introverts is that they tend to rely on their own inner compass–not external signals–to know that they’re making the right move or doing a good job. That can give them an edge in several ways.
For instance, they generally don’t look for people to tell them whether an idea is worth pursuing. They tend to think it through before speaking about it to anybody, and rely on their own judgment about whether it’s worth pursuing.
With extroverts, the need for social stimulation, for getting the idea in front of other people, can make them leap before they’ve thought something out, Ms. Buelow says. “It’s very important for them to get outside feedback and motivation.” Feedback is great, of course. But at a certain point a leader needs to decide on a plan and execute it.
Following their own compass also helps introverts stay focused on a venture. Extroverts can get sidetracked by seeking external validation, such as awards or media attention for a project, which can divert them from their main goals. While introverts welcome external validation, they won’t let it define them or distract them. “It’s about keeping the long-haul perspective,” Ms. Buelow says.
What’s more, because introverts aren’t looking for outside events to validate their plans–or themselves–they don’t take setbacks as personally as extroverts. Somebody who relies on external affirmation tends to take setbacks personally and may get dispirited if the company hits a rough patch.
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. . . , in a 2009 study looking at how introverts and extroverts approached an “effortful task,” Maya Tamir, director of the Emotion and Self-Regulation Laboratory at Boston College and Hebrew University in Jerusalem, found that extroverts sought a happy state while completing the task, while introverts preferred to maintain a neutral emotional state.
“The introverts’ happy space is a quieter space with less interruptions,” says Ms. Buelow. “They won’t have that overstimulation.”
For the full commentary, see:
ELIZABETH BERNSTEIN. “The Case for the Introverted Entrepreneur; Conventional wisdom says you need to be an extrovert to start a successful business. That’s wrong for all sorts of reasons.” The Wall Street Journal (Mon., August 24, 2015): R1-R2.
(Note: ellipses added; bold in original.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the title “Why Introverts Make Great Entrepreneurs; Conventional wisdom says you need to be an extrovert to start a successful business. That’s wrong for all sorts of reasons.”)
The Cain book mentioned in the commentary quoted above is:
Cain, Susan. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. New York: Crown, 2012.
The Helgoe book mentioned in the commentary quoted above is:
Helgoe, Laurie. Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, Inc., 2013.
The Maya Tamir article mentioned above, is:
Tamir, Maya. “Differential Preferences for Happiness: Extraversion and Trait-Consistent Emotion Regulation.” Journal of Personality 77, no. 2 (April 2009): 447-70.