Many people consider extroversion essential to becoming a successful leader, since heading a great company typically demands that you win people over. Over time, many introverted leaders have quietly proven that an outgoing personality simply isn’t necessary for great managers. Want to learn their secrets? Discover seven introverted leaders who changed the game and learn how to make a difference with quiet leadership.
1. Warren Buffett
Also known as the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffet is the founder and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. Though he prominently leads the largest financial services company in the world, Buffet isn’t known for being gregarious or outspoken. Instead, he’s considered somewhat of an intellectual, someone who’s constantly thinking critically and analyzing information quietly.
Even when there’s a lot at stake for Berkshire Hathaway, Buffet is known for being levelheaded. He isn’t afraid to take risks, which is a key quality in successful entrepreneurs, but he does so only after careful calculation. In fact, Buffett has even told his company’s investors that excitement should be considered a nemesis, as it tends to lead to bad decisions and unnecessary expenses.
2. Bill Gates
As the richest man in the world, Bill Gates is undoubtedly successful in both business and life. Gates has long been known as the ingenious founder of Microsoft, but in recent years, he’s also made a name for himself as a driven philanthropist. Gates has been described as bookish and even shy, but he knows when to assert himself and hold his ground. At work, Gates can even be outspoken, and he is known for his tenacity, a quality celebrated in entrepreneurs.
The Microsoft founder stands out from typical introverts in one key way, though. He values conflict, because he knows that encouraging others to disagree or even fight for what they believe in can help a company perform at its best. As a result, Gates welcomes challenges to the status quo, which has helped Microsoft become a major player in the world of software and technology.
3. Guy Kawasaki
Even Guy Kawasaki, the godfather of Silicon Valley and the face behind Canva, considers himself an introvert. Though he gives high-energy talks and serves as a startup evangelist, Kawasaki labels himself a loner and seeks out solo time to recharge.
Though Kawasaki might look like an extrovert to the casual observer, the tech guru claims he’s simply playing a role. In such a high-powered position, he can’t avoid the headlines or the spotlight. However, he considers this role part of the job, not an essential component of his personality. This may be music to the ears of aspiring introverts wondering just how fully they have to commit to their role in the spotlight.
4. Marissa Mayer
Like many other introverted leaders, Marissa Mayer can’t avoid the spotlight as the CEO of Yahoo!. However, she readily acknowledges that this isn’t her preferred place. Instead, she enjoys the behind-the-scenes work at the tech company and actually considers herself a shy person. In fact, she’s had to coach herself to emerge from her shell and overcome her tendency to retreat into her own space.
Mayer’s willingness to acknowledge the qualities that limit her, and the ability to force herself to withstand challenging situations, have helped her become the successful CEO she is today. As such, Mayer excels at quiet leadership.
5. Elon Musk
As the founder and CEO of SpaceX, Tesla, and several other tech companies, Elon Musk embodies the role of the entrepreneurial leader. Even though Musk regularly makes headlines and is considered one of the most powerful people in the world, he’s worked hard to learn how to play the role of a CEO.
Though he tends to be a showman when giving an interview or representing his startups, Musk is much more comfortable being his introverted self when the cameras are off. He considers himself an engineer at heart, but as a business leader, he strives to harness the powers of communication and relationship building.
6. Steve Wozniak
Steve Wozniak, the cofounder of Apple, is one of the most vocal proponents of introversion. He’s been known to downplay the role of working in teams, instead championing the idea of working alone to revolutionize the tech world.
Of course, Wozniak doesn’t always work alone. In fact, his decades-long business partnership with Steve Jobs, a noted extrovert, demonstrates the heights visionary leaders can achieve when they find the right collaborator.
7. Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg may have founded the largest social network on the planet, but the Facebook CEO identifies as an introvert. In many ways, Zuckerberg uses classic introvert traits to his advantage. He’s known to surround himself with leaders who have complementary skills, and he strives to make genuine connections with other business leaders and influential figures.
Like many successful introverts, Zuckerberg is known for his persistence and ability to work alone. However, Zuckerberg’s business practices reveal that the CEO knows his limitations and understands that collaboration and outreach are essential to realizing his vision.
Making a difference with quiet leadership
Whether you’re an introvert who aspires to manage or you’re an outgoing leader who wants to see how the other half lives, take a look at how startup founders and business owners have made a difference with quiet leadership. These reasons for success hold the keys to the power of introverts.
They let others talk
Managers have to be able to communicate their ideas effectively, which often means heading meetings, emailing, and giving talks. However, the best leaders also know how to listen effectively. This is an area where introverts excel, as they have the ability to let others talk. They allow team members and fellow leaders the time and space to share their thoughts, and introverted managers listen carefully for ideas and insight.
They analyze endlessly
Some startup founders find inspiration from sharing new ideas and exploring exciting possibilities, but quiet leaders know they need to be prepared to make a difference. That’s why they tend to analyze issues from every angle before saying a word. Introverted leaders know the value of thinking through their goals carefully in advance, so they don’t leave any stones unturned.
They appreciate solitude
Introverts can work in a number of environments, from solo offices to socially-minded shared office spaces in Silicon Valley, but they ultimately appreciate solitude. Because they tend to process internally, introverts work best when they have ample personal space, whether that’s in an office with a closed door or under a pair of noise-canceling headphones in a collaborative workspace. With time to themselves, introverted leaders can muscle through the hardest parts of the job, such as strategic planning and product innovation.
They rely on themselves
Some of the most outgoing leaders need constant affirmation from followers and team members, but introverted managers have a knack for relying on themselves. They tend not to need affirmation from those around them, instead trusting their own research or instincts. Introverts know when they’re making smart moves, and they only discuss ideas with others after thinking through every angle.
They seek out deep connections
Business leaders can’t get to the top alone, but quiet leaders know they don’t have to befriend everyone and they don’t have to be endlessly charming to innovate. Rather than making numerous superficial connections, introverted leaders tend to seek out deeper ones. They may have smaller circles, but the leaders and innovators who they connect with can be incredibly influential. Without the distraction of having to maintain countless relationships, quiet leaders can extract added value from their most meaningful relationships.
They stay calm under pressure
Outgoing leaders may seek out excitement and dynamism, but quiet leaders are known for their ability to stay calm under pressure. Whether they’re shaking things up with a big move or pitching to a powerful investor, introverted leaders know how to keep their cool. In times of crisis or when the going gets tough, this ability to keep a level head can benefit both CEOs and their companies. A calming demeanor can enable leaders to accomplish their goals and can even spread to the rest of the company, becoming an essential part of the corporate culture.
Introverts may not have the traditional characteristics of a business owner, but they certainly have the power to lead quietly. From Bill Gates to Elon Musk, introverts have demonstrated that they can launch and manage incredibly successful companies.