In Leadership, Introversion Is Underrated -- and Warren Buffett and Bill Gates Share How They Use It to Their Advantage. Some of the world's most powerful leaders in business have thrived despite their not being born outgoing, chatty or comfortable in large groups.
What do leaders like Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Warren Buffett have in common? Aside from being multibillionaires, media savvy and extremely ambitious in their own ways, all three of these entrepreneurs are self-professed introverts.
Musk has said in the past that he was inspired to start his own company in part because he was too nervous to talk to anyone when he was looking for his first job in the tech world.
But Angie Hicks, the founder of homeowner service platform Angie's List, told Entrepreneur that for a long time, because of her introvert status, she didn't think of herself as an entrepreneur.
"Even though I started a company, I didn't picture myself like that. I wasn't a big idea person, I'm not really charismatic," Hicks said. "You kind of have to learn how to be successful in your own skin. And for me, it was leading by example and making sure that I balance my day in such a way [that works for me]."
Despite how she once saw herself, Hicks is a successful entrepreneur. She is coming up on 24 years in business, by leaning into the qualities that are inherent to her personality instead of trying to be something that she wasn't.
And if you're an introvert who is thinking about starting a business, there is no reason to shy away from it because of shyness in certain social situations. Here are a few reasons why introversion serves the entrepreneur and those in charge.
They are thoughtful problem solvers.
During a Q&A in 2013 at Australia's University of New South Wales, Gates explained why he believed that introverts can have an advantage when it comes to approaching business roadblocks. "If you're clever, you can learn to get the benefits of being an introvert, which might be, say, being willing to go off for a few days and think about a tough problem, read everything you can, push yourself very hard to think out on the edge of that area," Gates said. He then explained that for a company to thrive, teams have to be able to tap into the strengths of both extroverts and introverts.
They build deep one-on-one relationships.
Hicks says that as she grew her company, she wanted to make sure that she was still having meaningful interactions with her employees. So she decided to institute an office-hours policy. "I put aside time every week and have 15-minute sessions. Anyone in the company can sign up for it to talk about anything they want to," Hicks told Entrepreneur. "I get as much out of it as they do. It can be anything from "Hey, I just haven't a chance to sit down and meet you' to "I've got a business idea' or "I've got an issue.' And it's really allowed me to develop relationships with folks that I may never have gotten the opportunity to."
Communication and connecting with people is important to them.
In a 2013 conversation with Levo League, a career website for young women, Warren Buffett shared why it was so critical to get comfortable with public speaking early on in his career. "If you can't communicate and talk to other people, you're giving up your potential," Buffett said. "If you have a fear of associating with people, you have to go out there and do it, and it's painful… When I was young and completed the [public speaking] course, I was worried I would lapse back… so I started teaching a class at night and, you know, you've got to force yourself to do some things sometimes."