Introverts rule! But more quietly.

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What do Bill Gates, Barack Obama, J. K. Rowling, Mark Zuckerberg and Warren Buffett have in common?

Obviously they are all extremely successful in their fields. But they also happen to identify as introverts. You could add to that list Jeff Bezos, Marissa Mayer, Elon Musk, Sergey Brin and many more.

How can that be? Surely that goes against the narrative that says successful leaders are shouty, go-getting, tub-thumping titans (and probably male)?

  • Get their energy from being alone

  • Often shy

  • Quiet in groups

  • Can concentrate for long periods

  • Take time to reflect and make decisions

  • Learn by observing

  • Bottle up emotions

  • Get their energy from being with others

  • Often sociable and outgoing

  • Outspoken in groups

  • Easily distracted

  • Make decisions quickly

  • Learn by doing

  • Unload emotions as they go

Received wisdom in businesses throughout the 20th century said that somehow leadership had to be loud, outward-facing and gregarious, as opposed to thoughtful, focused and team-oriented. The narrative still persists today - 65% of high level execs see introversion as a barrier to success. Culture values extroversion and teaches us that introversion is “somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology”.

Thankfully they’re wrong. Many of the traits of introversion come in handy as a leader, and are consistent with some of the top 10 traits of leadership. In other words, introverts are just as capable of leadership and achievement, they just do it differently to extroverts.

As Donorfy’s founders, we sit towards the introverted end of the spectrum (there’s no such thing as pure introvert or extrovert). We’re quietly passionate about building a successful business that is true to our values - not trying to be something we’re not. So how do we arrange what we do so that we can be successful while being ourselves?

Probably the biggest thing is that we’ve organised ourselves to be a cloud-based business. What does that mean? We’re a remote, connected business without an office, by design. Meaning we all work from our homes (WFH is a classic preference of the introverted of course). We work hard to use digital collaboration tools to keep in touch, and we make a thing of “bringing our whole selves to work” - meaning we make time to know one another other.

Culture has taught us that somehow being together all the time in an office is more productive, but as many organisations are now finding, offices are overrated. Many good things flow from not having an office: it saves money; it saves tons of time; and it’s kinder to the planet. (BTW - we’re not complete hermits, we love to gather for team meetings when we can!)

Introversion does not necessarily mean shyness; and neither does extroversion mean confidence. But knowing where you are on the introvert / extrovert spectrum can help you approach work in a way that might be hugely beneficial to your success.


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