Are you an extrovert or an introvert? In case you aren't familiar, someone's place on the spectrum of extroversion and introversion depends on how much that person prefers the company of other people -- and his or her preference as to "natural" social setting.
Extroverts tend to feel energized being surrounded by others, at parties and networking events, while introverts feel recharged when they're alone, or in the company of a select few people.
You can probably spot extroverts and introverts in your own life (including yourself) with ease. Your extrovert friends like to throw parties and go out to bars, while your introvert friends like to stay in with a book or a plan for the evening binge-watching movies. Each lifestyle has different social advantages, but how do those advantages play out in an entrepreneurial setting?
The benefits of extroversion
Intuitively, you might believe that extroverts have a natural advantage when it comes to entrepreneurship. They're more comfortable with engaging with other people, and more likely to do it on a consistent basis. As a result, they tend to have:
- Wider networks. Compare the social circles of an extrovert and an introvert. On average, extroverts' circles will be bigger, since they spend more time meeting new people and are more willing to expand their circles. Bigger social circles are advantageous for entrepreneurs because they offer more potential contacts to use as employees, clients and partners, or even mentors.
- Easier conversations. Extroverts usually have more practice with conversation, and are more comfortable communicating with other people. Communication is vital for the success of a business, so this natural tendency can come in handy. If you're an extrovert, you may be able to exert your leadership more gracefully, and earn the respect and admiration of your team. You may be able to secure more clients with your persuasiveness. You may find it easier to break difficult news to your investors. In any case, you'll be a far better communicator.
- Team dynamics. Extroverts may be better at coordinating others in terms of building teams and working together. They've had more experience understanding interpersonal dynamics, and may be able to recognize strengths and weaknesses of their team members at a glance. In startups, it's common to work closely together on most projects, so skills in team dynamics are a necessity.
- Charisma. Though not imperative for a business to succeed, an entrepreneurs's charisma can give his or her startup a boost in visibility and popularity. As you might suspect, extroverts are better at generating audiences, building authority and eventually becoming significant influencers. This doesn't mean that introverts can't be charming, or can't build audiences of their own, they might find it more challenging to do so.
The benefits of introversion
Before you start believing that extroverts truly are better suited to be entrepreneurs, consider that introverts have some advantages of their own. Because they don't spend as much time socializing with others and building personal networks, they have more time to spend on other matters:
- Focus. Introverts tend to be better at focusing on and completing tasks. They're not driven to engage in large groups, and tend to prefer dedicating attention to their own priorities. Accordingly, they're less distracted by conversations, and in general, this can make them more productive.
- Areas of specialty. Introverts also usually spend more time studying, learning and practicing the skills that appeal to them most. This makes them more likely to master challenging subjects, such as technical proficiency in their trade. It shouldn't come as a surprise that some of the most innovative minds in tech describe themselves as introverts; they may not be great at building big networks, but they have great ideas and know how to execute them.
- Closer relationships. Finally, remember that introverts aren't averse to forming social relationships -- they just prefer a lower quantity of higher-quality relationships. Accordingly, they may be better at building and maintaining a tight-knit group of employees and partners.
It's important to note how rare it is that someone is either purely extroverted or introverted. Even strong extroverts enjoy quiet time to themselves on occasion, while strong introverts are capable of comfortably navigating highly social environments.
The descriptions in the respective sections above reflect broad generalizations, and may not apply to every individual who describes himself or herself as an "introvert" or "extrovert."
Are you stuck?
If you feel like an introvert or extrovert, and think things on the other side of the fence are better, don't fret. Research does show a genetic component to where you fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum, but that doesn't mean you don't have control over how your personality develops, or that you're stuck in any one spot on that spectrum permanently.