It’s a myth that to succeed in business, you need to be an extrovert. Because there are famous introverts who prove that otherwise.
Surprisingly, being a leader, talking to the media, and being OUT THERE does not have to mean being the sort of person who is comfortable with that. In fact, famous introverts like Oprah Winfrey and Wendy Kopp have successfully built teams, brands, and wealth.
How did they do it? They understood that the attributes of being an introvert are also the same characteristics of great leaders and CEOs. Rather than trying to change their true nature, they embraced it.
Next are 3 lessons from famous introverts which may inspire you to see the advantages of your introverted nature.
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Lessons from famous introverts
As Richard Branson said, “listen more than you talk”. Listening to people is widely recognized as a valuable skill which contributes to business success. So listen to staff, to suppliers, and to customers. This is more than hearing the words. Listen to the intention behind what is being said, and be open to what may arise from it. In the very early days of Airbnb, Brian Chesky stayed with hosts and listened to what they liked about the platform. Those listening skills contributed to developing features and functionalities which contributed to their success. For example, the initial concept required the host to be home and prepare breakfast for their guest – that other B in Airbnb. It was against the rules to rent unoccupied space. It was only after listening to hosts share why they wanted to rent their vacant places that they changed their policies. And as they say, the rest is history.
By research, I mean read. Highly successful famous introverts all tend to read. Mark Zuckerberg has said he likes to read about different cultures, histories, and technologies. Mark Cuban credits reading 3 hours a day with gaining a competitive advantage early in his career. He researched everything available about the sector he wanted to succeed in so that he was the most knowledgeable person in the room. And of course, Oprah Winfrey leveraged her love of reading to build her brand and expand her media empire. Oprah’s Book Club selections launched careers and bought houses.
Famous introverts teach us that ideas and innovation comes from taking the time to reflect. Inspiration is often found in the quiet spaces between thoughts. The famous “eureka” moment came when Archimedes was lounging in the bathtub. Newton was contemplating alone under a tree when that falling apple inspired him.
Bill Gates has his Think Weeks where he turns off technology and takes time to process. He takes a whole week alone to reflect on what he has read, learned, and experienced. Going away for a full week is not available for everyone. There are many strategies you can build into your regular schedule so that you gain the advantage of regular reflection. For example, meditation, yoga, walking, and my personal favourite – journalling.
These 3 attributes work together, combining as a superpower for introverts who can leverage these into competitive advantages to build their business.
Best books for introverts
These are the best books for introverts who are at any stage of entrepreneurship.
This book changed my life. The research into the physiology and chemistry of an introverted person reframed my perspective of myself.
Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength by Dr Jennifer Kahnweiler
This book is less data and more action plan. She sets out a specific strategy to succeed in a world seemingly designed for extroverts.
The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World by Sophia Dembling
A happy balance between the last 2 books, this one is motivational and encouraging. Reading this will support self-acceptance, and boost appreciation of the advantages introverts have.
For all the famous introverts on the covers on business magazines and doing high-profile media appearances, there are countless other entrepreneurs who have leveraged their introverted nature to build success, out of the spotlight. Overall, it’s most important to embrace the attributes of what makes you, you – and use these superpowers to achieve your entrepreneurial dreams.