Introverts Rule?

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Have you thought much about it? Ironically if you are an extrovert you probably haven’t and if you are an introvert you have.

I just finished reading a book called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking and Susan brings to light many interesting elements to a persons personality. Now that is interesting enough by itself, however the application to business, startups and our personal success is super important.

I also had a conversation with Mark MacLeod (Startup CFO) at Real Ventures / FounderFuel about this. He mentioned it is his strong belief that self-aware introverts make the best CEOs. He is also writing a book about this very topic which will be out sometime next year. I can’t wait to read it. I don’t think there is enough literature out there about strategies for specific personality types to be successful.

We typically see leaders(at least in the western hemisphere) as loud, verbose, confident, outgoing people (stereotypical extroverts). People with strong convictions typically have people who will follow them without a second thought. This inspirational type of leadership is amazing and inspiration yet can bet ineffective if there is no substance behind the conviction.

According to Susan this type of leader doesn’t make better decisions when contrasted with introverted leaders. Extroverts lack of awareness(sensitivity) of external social cues lets others perceive him or her as bold, confident, and sure. Stated different; extroverts are perceived as leaders because of their inability to notice social queues in addition to lacking a heightened level of awareness in general. Meaning they area confident because they LACK something important in business, awareness and the ability to question themselves.

The real difference between the introvert and extrovert typically isn’t the ability to make better decisions, it is the awareness of risks and the ability to question everything. Extroverted leadership may end up with worse decisions when compared to introverted leadership. This is because introverts tend to spend more time analyzing problems before giving up in addition to spending more time listening and reflecting.

Would you rather have a leader as someone who drives the group on instinct and confidence or someone who has a more methodical, analytical plan? Not to say extroverts cannot have or be those things as most of us are a mix of the two. In a situation where you have an outspoken person and one who is watching everything happen we might normally let the outspoken person take the leadership role because he or she is just so confident. Giving that person the reigns would be a mistake before you explore the range of experiences and interests and determine who would really be a better leader.

Lets bring it back to startups.  You can read my post about the core role of a startup CEO.  The very basics are:

  • Vision
  • Team
  • Progress

Do you need to be an extrovert and thrive off of the energy of others to do any of those things? No you don’t. You can find a way to accomplish anything you ‘need’ to through hard work, determination, and ‘hacking it’ with the skill sets you already have.

The purpose of this article is to challenge the notion that startups can only be lead by extroverts and to give confidence to those of us who have questioned our own abilities because it is in our nature to question everything. Being self-aware and sensitive are positive qualities when they are tempered with a dose of restraint and focused to a particular goal. Introverts and extroverts can both be excellent CEOs each having different styles and strengths. If you are forming a new startup consider the impact of just giving the ‘business guy’ or the ‘guy who can do presentations’ the title of CEO. The long term impact of these decisions is too important to not give much more thought.

Oh and by the way there is no rule that the CEO has to give all the presentations! Even if there was, aren’t we here to disrupt? :–)

Author: Adam Perkins

Startup Entrepreneur from Madison Wisconsin.