Some of the best leaders are those who challenge the traditional notions of leadership. These individuals find ways to innovate, spark movements, and guide countries and companies in ways that suit their personal strengths. Take Steve Wozniak, for example. People in the tech world will recognize his name, but the everyday person is likely more familiar with Steve Jobs.
The last name Jobs isn’t a pseudonym for Wozniak; they are two different people, two leaders whose collaboration resulted in Apple, Inc. As co-founders, Jobs and Wozniak brought their contrasting personalities to the table – Jobs as an extrovert and Wozniak as an introvert.
Steve Wozniak preferred working alone and generated some of his best ideas in isolation. Countless other individuals have led revolutions in their respective fields – some doing so in the spotlight, and others doing so from the background. From film directors to U. S. presidents, here is a list of 17 successful leaders who also happen to be introverts.
A Google co-founder, Page has served as CEO of the global company since 2011. He is personally reserved, thrives on innovation, and takes a lateral approach to leadership.
Marissa Mayer is the CEO at Yahoo!, where she has spent time in the public spotlight for her leadership. The media depicts her more as an extrovert, although she prefers a quiet form of leading and enjoys simply coding.
Bill Gates, whose reputation precedes him, has achieved great success in both business and philanthropy. He focuses on recognizing his strengths as an introvert and matching them with the strengths of other personality types.
A Civil Rights leader, Rosa Parks established a legend with her bold actions. By contrast, those who knew who her describe her as soft-spoken, and her autobiography is titled Quiet Strength.
Einstein, an intellectual leader, favored solitude when doing his creative thinking. Thanks to him, the world has the theory of relativity, among many other scientific contributions from the Nobel laureate.
The director of Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, and dozens of other blockbusters, Steven Spielberg is a self-proclaimed introvert. Even today, his idea of relaxing involves being engrossed in a good movie.
Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt maintained a very public persona despite her preference for being out of the spotlight. Though shy in temperament, she upheld an active speaking schedule and was a United Nations delegate.
Sir Isaac Newton
Another academic leader, Sir Isaac Newton brought us the early explanations for gravity and motion. He did all of this while making it clear that he valued his privacy.
Celebrated author and social leader JK Rowling introduced the world to Harry Potter and Hogwarts. She had the idea for her books while traveling, and the introduction might have come sooner had she asked a stranger for a pen.
A business magnate, Warren Buffett built his career on investing. What people might not know is that he specifically pursued courses at the Dale Carnegie program that enabled him to reinforce his intellect with people skills.
In the acting industry, Meryl Streep is a longtime leader, and she also happens to be an introvert. Her preparation and performance has earned her three Academy Awards.
Gandhi set an unprecedented example of leadership with his life. His nonviolent approach to protesting and advocating for positive change was no doubt informed by his introverted nature.
One of the more surprising members of this list is Michael Jordan, arguably the best athlete to play the game of basketball. His NBA championships and personal accolades all happened in the public eye, but it turns out “being like Mike” involves being introverted.
In several interviews, Elon Musk has commented on the process of practicing how to go on stage as CEO of Tesla Motors. He views himself as an introverted engineer, and his public persona is one he has had to develop.
Kawasaki, a proponent of the evangelist approach to marketing, has made his career persuading people and teaching others to persuade. Yet he describes his nature as introverted, with the spotlight just a part of the job, not the person.
Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is another individual who has had to develop a public persona. The irony is not lost on the creator of a social network who is shy and introverted.
The 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama has also served as a senator and law professor, and he won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. Notwithstanding his numerous public positions, he prefers quiet environments. One journalist said of the President, “He’s a more or less solitary figure who has extraordinary communicative capacities.”