The Success of the Strong, Silent Type

“Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me. They’re shy and they live in their heads. The very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone…” –Steve Wozniak

One-third of us consider ourselves introverts. We’re the ones who prefer listening to speaking, who innovate and create but dislike self promotion, and who favor working on our own as opposed to working in teams.

Introverts have been having a moment, thanks to Susan Cain’s 2012 bestselling book, Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. Cain wrote that our culture has encouraged an Extrovert Ideal while undervaluing the characteristics of introverts, especially in the ways they relate to leadership. “Outstanding introverted leaders, such as Darwin, Marie Curie, Patrick White and Arthur Boyd, who have created either new fields of thought or rearranged existing knowledge, have spent long periods of their lives in solitude,” she says in her book. “Hence, leadership does not apply to social situations, but also occurs in more solitary situations such as developing new techniques in arts, creating new philosophies, writing profound books and making scientific breakthroughs.”

To inspire the introvert in all of us (no one is 100 percent) Your Trade Base, a company that provides web-based administrative software to small businesses, created a list of best practices by successful introverts. Use them to help you make decisions, understand your customers, encourage your staff or create your masterpiece (whatever it may be).

Benefit from time alone.
Your inspiration: Bill Gates spends time on his own doing some deep thinking about problems and decisions.

Sometimes it’s best if you do things yourself.
Your inspiration: engineering wizard Steve Wozniak likes to work alone, and still makes big decisions based on his own experience.

Team up to create good business balance.
Your inspiration: Wozniak teamed up with classic extrovert and salesman Steve Jobs to create one of the most innovative and successful companies in the world.

Change the rules to fit your needs. After all, it’s your business.
Your inspiration: Jeff Bezos holds meetings in written form, which helps him focus better on ideas.

Push yourself out of your comfort zone.
Your inspiration: Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard and taught himself to speak Mandarin in his spare time.

Don’t talk. Listen. 
Your inspiration: Google’s Larry Page is known for democratic leadership, and for promoting the ideas of his employees.

It’s not always about going forward. Examine the tasks you’ve accomplished and get feedback.
Your inspiration: Jack Dorsey of Twitter spends every Sunday analyzing the previous week’s decisions, and uses the data to plan ahead.

Don’t show off. You never know who you’ll meet or need in the future. Learn to value your own mistakes.
Your inspiration: Tony Hsieh considers being humble a core business value, and runs Zappos in a deliberately leaderless way.

Some things are scary. Develop skills that will help them be less so.
Your inspiration: Guy Kawasaki, Apple’s chief evangelist, found being in the spotlight exhausting, but worked on improving his speaking skills to cope and thrive.

You’re a regular person, even when you’re making billions.
Your inspiration: Douglas Conant from Campbell Soup Company still gets nervous before speeches. It actually helps him with the delivery.

To see an infographic and find out more about the world’s most successful introverts, visit

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