Table of Contents
- I Am Somewhere in Between
- Famous Introvert Leaders
- My Experience As An Introvert and Leader
- Introvert Leaders
Upset stomach. Sweaty hands. A heavyweight on your chest. Feeling like you can't breathe. A constant worry that others think you're stupid or annoying. The sudden urge to bolt from the crowd. This is what it can be like to experience social anxiety as an introvert.
Introverts are often shy, quiet in large places, have few close friends, mentally rehearse before speaking, intense, passionate and mostly learn by observing rather than asking.
I Am Somewhere in Between
I feel I'm in the middle, not completely an introvert but I am not also an extrovert. When I was in my undergrad, I struggled to start conversations with others. But everything changed when I decided to follow my passion and start my own business.
To be clear, both introverts and extroverts can struggle with social anxiety, and not every introvert is anxious. Nevertheless, it's common for introverts to find themselves battling some level of social anxiety. It can strike at any social gathering, big or small, and sometimes without rhyme or reason.
To be introvert and anxious, I feel it's hard to get work done at times. For example, when I am in a class or a meeting, I struggle to raise a question some times. Most of the time, I keep on listing to what others are talking about and observe to learn. I feel this as an advantage sometimes, because I keep on listening till the end analyzing what everyone is talking about and then ask my questions, which are often different and important for the meeting/discussion.
Famous Introvert Leaders
Before diving into my experience as an anxious introvert entrepreneur, first, let's discuss some of the famous introvert leaders and how I got inspiration from them. (All the information is from based on various interviews and articles I found on the internet by doing the research I did before writing this paper)
Bill Gates, one of the richest persons in the world, Founder of Microsoft, one of the successful and famous entrepreneurs and leaders, is an Introvert. In an interview, when asked about how it's being an introvert, he answered by saying:
"Well, I think introverts can do quite well. 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. Then, if you come up with something, if you want to hire people, get them excited, build a company around that idea, you better learn what extroverts do, you better hire some extroverts, like Steve Ballmer I would claim as an extrovert, and tap into both sets of skills to have a company that thrives both as in deep thinking and building teams and going out into the world to sell those ideas"
- Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, Key influential person behind Apple and its early inventions is an introvert. Here we can observe how powerful a combination of an introvert and an extrovert can be since the other co-founder of Apple is Steve Jobs.
- Elon Musk, Founder & CEO of Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink, The Boring Company, X dot com (now Paypal), Open AI, and Owner of Solar City, is an introvert.
- Mark Zuckerberg, Co-Founder, and CEO of Facebook.
- Jeff Bezos, Founder & CEO of Amazon.
- Sergey Brin, Co-Founder of Google.
- Warren Buffett, President and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.
- Steven Spielberg, Famous American Director.
- Peter Thiel, Co-Founder of Paypal and Palantir.
- Marissa Mayer, Former CEO, Yahoo!
- Mahatma Gandhi, One of the great Indian Freedom Fighters.
And the list continues. Some reports say that up to 40% of the top executives described as introverts. By analyzing the above list, we can say that introversion is not a barrier for leadership but could be a great quality for becoming a strong leader.
My Experience As An Introvert and Leader
Coming to my experience as introvert anxious entrepreneurship, I start my story from the point where I decide to start my own business. I was in my final year when I completely decided to start my own business rather than joining a job. My cousin was also working on digital marketing concepts we paired up and started our business.
At first, we planned to develop websites and use them to market local businesses. Later we recognized the need for digital marketing for local small businesses and we decided to give digital marketing and social media marketing as a service. Then we faced a real challenge which is talking to local businesses and convincing them to buy our services (Customer Acquisition). I and my cousin, both are introverts and it is a do or die situation. Luckily we got our first client based on my friend reference but getting new clients is still a challenge.
I started meeting potential clients, which was a tough task. I felt anxious even thinking about the meeting. I used to prepare (in mind) what I need to talk about and how to frame a sentence before meeting them.
But when I started talking to a client, I used to forget everything and just concentrating on listening to what they are saying, then discussing what we offer and trying to explain how our services help their business and finally making an agreement and building marketing strategies for them. I remember how I used to become anxious when I decided to work at the cash counter of my ice-cream store in peak hours because I don't even know who is going to turn up in front of me. But again, when I started working receiving the customers, I forgot everything and just focused on the work.
Introvert leaders make good leadership. People feel good when they are led by introverts because they can see that they are there not because they enjoyed being looked at, and not because they enjoy controlling other people, but because they are there without a choice, and they took the spotlight even though every bone in their body telling them not to, It works like almost a special power. People feel true authenticity in their leadership.
Professor Grant said, there is no difference in introverted leaders and extroverted leaders when compared to their effectiveness. But, his and his team members found that in their research, introverted leaders can be more effective than extraverts in certain circumstances. The main determining factor is who they are managing. He says, "Extraverted leadership involves commanding the center of attention: being outgoing, assertive, bold, talkative and dominant. This offers the advantages of providing a clear authority structure and direction. However, pairing extraverted leaders with employees who take initiative and speak out can lead to friction, while pairing the same group of employees with an introverted leader can be a pathway to success."
In conclusion, according to the research, the best combination for teams is not the introvert leader or extrovert leader but it's about the team and leader.