We’re living in the era of the introvert. The introspective professional is reaching paramount success over and over again.
If you’ve spent time browsing the internet in the last six months, you’ve probably noticed websites like Business Insider, The Huffington Post, and Forbes highlighting this increasingly popular term: emotional intelligence. Perceiving what others are feeling, listening more than talking, and a deep sense of what you’re feeling at any given moment–along with how to handle those feelings–is what psychologists call emotionally intelligent. Many of today’s introverted leaders either surround themselves with emotionally intelligent teams, or practice emotional intelligence themselves. For an introverted leader, this is the key to success.
Here are five wildly successful introverts whose emotional intelligence took their business goals to the next level.
Warren Buffett - CEO of Berkshire Hathaway
Warren Buffett is America’s most famous financial leader and philanthropist. Few people know how central introversion is to his unbelievable success.
The core of Warren Buffett’s enterprise revolves around a decentralized workplace, a strategy introverted leaders favor. Buffett steps back, and lets his investors do the work they were hired to do. He is always there for consultation, but also trusts his subsidiaries to run independently. He also doesn’t overemphasize meetings–a place where socializing and unfocused communication can muddle the bottom line. He prefers his company to research and read to stay ahead of the curve instead of requiring them to attend frequent meetings.
The most important introverted quality triggering Warren Buffett’s success is his ability to focus on long-term goals. Introverts are long-term thinkers, resulting in business security and a loftier reward at the end of a longer tunnel. As expert Susan Cain puts it, Warren Buffet is a value investor instead of one “trying to turn a fast profit through quick-and-dirty market hacks.”
Larry Page - Co-Founder and CEO of Google
Larry Page transformed the phrase “introverted CEO” from an oxymoron to a company asset.
Page is universally known for his need to constantly innovate. Specifically, as a democratic leader believing in equality.
His lateral approach to business is a proactive approach many introverts take (much like Warren Buffett’s decentralized business strategy).
Steve Wozniak - Co-Founder of Apple
Steve Wozniak highlights one fundamental genius of introverted business leaders.
His story, which is beautifully illustrated in this video, is one of quiet innovation. He came up with a world-changing idea on his own, then used the social megaphone of extrovert Steve Jobs to execute his idea on a large scale. Introverted leaders can sit alone in quiet rooms and change the landscape of technology as we know it. Fostering these ideas is a crucial lesson we can learn from Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs’ extremely-compatible partnership.
“I don’t believe anything really revolutionary has ever been invented by committee… I’m going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone… Not on a committee. Not on a team.” - Steve Wozniak.
The takeaway is not to isolate yourself, but to learn from the power of embracing thinking alone. Thinking in your element, and being open to communication with networkers, friends and coworkers (however the collaboration comes about) is how many introverted leaders-in-the-making bring their ideas to life.
Mark Zuckerberg - Co-Founder and CEO of Facebook
Mark Zuckerberg is the most famous introverted entrepreneur–probably the most famous entrepreneur, period.
Zuckerberg, much like Steve Wozniak, surrounds himself with business-savvy extroverts, like his COO Sheryl Sandberg. This teamwork move is integral to a balanced company leadership.
However, it is the focused drive displayed by many introverted thinkers that forced his amazing product into fruition. In college, he stayed up all night coding while his friends went out and partied. Living in your own world and working alone is how introverts, like Steve Wozniak, power through ideas that redefine technology as we know it.
Elon Musk - CEO and Product Architect of Tesla Motors
In an interview with Business Insider, Elon Musk explains his commercial “showmanship” with, “I’m basically like an introverted engineer, so, it took a lot of practice and effort to be able to go up on stage and not just stammer basically...As the CEO, you kind of have to.”
The final thing we can learn from today’s introverted leaders is that it’s okay to leave your introverted comfort zone to live up to your role–and this does not mean you need to change your core personality, values, or work ethic.
The soft-spoken founder of Tesla is all over the news and participates in interviews to move his product and passion forward. But, his work style quickly goes back to that of an “introverted engineer” off-camera. Introverts don’t need to become extroverts; they just need to work with them in a way that socializes and mobilizes their business ideas.