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Can Introverts Be Successful Business Owners?

3 min read • Jun 03, 2019 • Grant Olsen

According to long-standing research published in the Harvard Business Review, extroverts make the best leaders. With their dominantly expressive traits, they tend to stand out in interviews and attract attention for promotions. Additionally, their colleagues overwhelmingly perceive them to be more effective in their jobs.

Contrast that with the notion that introverts are often considered to be inferior. About 65% of senior executives actually view introversion as a legitimate barrier to leadership.

So it’s case closed, right? Extroverts are clearly best suited to lead a company. Not so fast. The Harvard Business Review also points out how research strongly suggests that introverts may make the best bosses.

At the center of this hypothesis is the assertion that extroverts take command of situations and can stifle collaboration. Introverts, on the other hand, are often better listeners. They receive feedback better. These traits help spur collaboration.

Of course, that doesn’t mean introverts have a smooth road to leadership. Stereotypes are infamously pesky. Studies reveal that an individual’s implicit stereotypical preferences are based on “associations prevalent within their culture.” So you can pat yourself on the back and say that you’re bias-free, but you’re still a product of the powerful cultural influences around you.

One thing to remember is that hardly anyone is a cut-and-dry extrovert or introvert. Most of us are ambiverts, having both introverted and extroverted traits.

When more than 300,000 business leaders were asked to rank the traits they felt were most crucial in a business titan, the traits were all compatible with introverts. The list included attributes like integrity, problem-solving, and relationship-building–traits possessed by overachieving introverts like Thomas Jefferson, Abe Lincoln, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett.

If you identify as an introvert, you can strengthen your leadership opportunities in a couple of seemingly oppositional ways. First, fuel the very activities that make you a happy, thriving introvert. Start by scheduling time for yourself during the day so you can balance out the demands of group meetings with the kind of solitude that allows you to process your thoughts.

At the same time, you need to make your presence known. Never keep a great idea to yourself. While your contributions might be consistently impactful, they may be easier for others to overlook because they lack the charismatic bluster that sometimes accompanies an extrovert. You can start remedying this by distilling your thoughts into actionable ideas that show your value and initiative.

The bottom line is that there’s no exact model for what a successful business owner’s personality type should be. Whether you identify more strongly as an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, you have unique strengths that can help you thrive.

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Grant Olsen

Grant Olsen is a writer specializing in small business loans, leadership skills, and growth strategies. He is a contributing writer for KSL 5 TV, where his articles have generated more than 6 million page views, and has been featured on FitSmallBusiness.com and ModernHealthcare.com. Grant is also the author of the book "Rhino Trouble." He has a B.A. in English from Brigham Young University.