Which successful startup founders are introverted?

The potential for success of the introvert

The most successful entrepreneurs in the world are considered introverted personalities: whether Facebook inventor Mark Zuckerberg, Microsoft founder Bill Gates or Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. If companies fail to recognize the high value of introverted employees, they commit a fatal mistake.

“Why should introverts be important for companies at all?” This question says a lot about the image of introverts. You just don't have them on your screen. The focus is too much on the faces in the spotlight. Wherever fame and money are settled, it feels like you mostly meet extroverts - especially in sales and management. HR managers also confirm this feeling. According to a Xing survey, the vast majority of HR professionals believe that extroverts tend to be more successful.

+++ This article first appeared in our magazine Human Resources Manager. You can find an overview of the issues here. +++

How does this impression come about?

Introverted employees differ from their extroverted colleagues primarily in the way in which they process stimuli, recharge their batteries and consume them. This becomes clear, for example, from the noise and interaction level, which is perceived as pleasant or annoying. While introverts appreciate a quiet, undisturbed work environment, extroverts enjoy busy working days among many people.

On days in the home office or individual office, introverts get amazing things done. It is easy for them to dig deep into new topics and concentrate on completing important tasks. Introverts like to act deliberately and get involved in meetings especially when they can contribute something substantial. They are often valued conversation partners because they listen carefully and can discreetly keep the concerns of the other person to themselves. In large discussions and presentations, however, they let their extroverted colleagues take the lead if possible. This shifts the collective perception in favor of the extrovert.

Whether the introverted achievements and strengths in the background are still seen and promoted depends heavily on the respective corporate culture and industry. If the extroverted ideal is dominant, as is the case in the advertising and insurance industries, then it is difficult for introverts. Conversely, however, they have an advantage in technical and IT-related industries.

Successfully turned inward

The digital change is triggering a cross-industry shift in previous personality ideals. In the course of digitization, not only digital products and services are on the rise. Processes that were formerly characterized by personal interaction, such as the sale of products or the recruitment of new employees, are also shifting to the virtual world. Standard products are bought online and applicant profiles are pre-filtered by algorithms. In processes that can be standardized and therefore digitized, personal contact becomes less relevant. Inevitably, classic professions change and completely new job profiles emerge.

Introverts in particular benefit from this. You can use your empathic and analytical skills as business economists, strategists or marketing professionals behind the scenes with increasing success. Talents from the MINT area are also in demand in all industries today. They promise to look through and look into a virtual world of work, the technical basis of which is only partially accessible to the majority of today's managers.

The current Forbes list is the best proof of the digital triumph of the past few years and the potential for success of introverts. With Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, three of the five richest people in the world come from the fields of e-commerce, software and social media. Contrary to the social management ideal, they are all described as introverted.

Beyond the comfort zone

Being able to sell oneself well has been the greatest advantage of extroverted personalities so far, which was particularly useful in job interviews and when making important personnel decisions. However, this advantage noticeably loses its impact. Networking via social media and career networks ensures increasing transparency. Anyone who cheats on their résumé and certificates is more easily exposed than ever before. Even a sympathetic appearance can hardly hide this. In increasingly digital application processes, written application documents - especially with automated pre-selection - are also gaining in importance. Both developments neutralize the former imbalance in the classic job interview.

Even in a digital world, it is people who buy from us, lead us and work with us. Socially incompatible introverts who cut themselves off completely from the outside world will therefore have just as difficult a job as superficial extroverts who stubbornly defy the changed world of work. The most successful will be those personalities who can and want to survive outside of their comfort zone in times of change. This is only possible with a high level of awareness of your own strengths and hurdles in an environment that is capable of resonance.

Diversity starts with personality

As a result, companies that create a work environment in which introverted and extroverted employees can develop are well positioned. On the other hand, those who promote financial and personnel-political inequality between personality types are sending the wrong signals in the battle for talent. It is not only important to successfully master the competition with other companies. The start-up culture, which offers plenty of space for people with good ideas, is also becoming a serious opponent. It enables a comfortable, partly subsidized entry into self-employment - even for founders without innate sales talent.

Retaining introverted specialists and experts to the company in the long term is therefore becoming a growing challenge. Even small individual measures, such as redesigning workplaces or personality workshops, are a step in the right direction. In order to achieve a lasting effect, however, companies cannot avoid anchoring the topic firmly in their diversity management. This is the only way to systematically initiate a collective rethinking far removed from outdated role models.

Employee retention for introverts

Anyone who sees and understands current developments will no longer doubt the importance of introverts for the company. To ensure the company's success, the question arises as to how introverts can be kept in the company.

If the farewell to dominant extroverted or introverted ideals in the corporate culture is successful, the way is paved for a successful cooperation. Then the unique strengths of both personality types can be specifically developed and combined. Reaching and connecting the people behind the personalities is perhaps the greatest art and task in the midst of digitization.