By John Rampton of Inc.
There are a lot of misconceptions regarding introverts. Some look at those they consider to be introverted and toss out all kinds of hyperbole, such as, “they are so shy they would not being able to deliver a speech in a public,” or “she is so shy and introverted—she does not like people all.” However, these prejudicial overstatements rarely hold water. After all, introverts have been responsible for some of the greatest achievements in history, as well as being some of the most successful business and political leaders in the world.
Here are 23 of the most successful introverts in history:
1. Albert Einstein
As one of the world’s most recognized and revered physicists, Einstein has often been quoted as saying, “The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.” Einstein received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921 and is best remembered for developing the theory of relativity.
2. Rosa Parks
Parks became one of the most historically important figures in 1955 after refusing to give her seat up for a white man. In the introduction of her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain states:
“I had always imagined Rosa Parks as a stately woman with a bold temperament, someone who could easily stand up to a busload of glowering passengers. But when she died in 2005 at the age of 92, the flood of obituaries recalled her as soft-spoken, sweet, and small in stature. They said she was ‘timid and shy’ but had ‘the courage of a lion.’ They were full of phrases like ‘radical humility’ and ‘quiet fortitude.’”
3. Bill Gates
The founder of Microsoft, philanthropist, and world’s richest person, was once asked how to succeed in a predominantly extroverted world.
“Well, I think introverts can do quite well. If you’re clever you can learn to get the benefits of being an introvert, which might be, say, being willing to go off for a few days and think about a tough problem, read everything you can, push yourself very hard to think out on the edge of that area. Then, if you come up with something, if you want to hire people, get them excited, build a company around that idea, you better learn what extroverts do, you better hire some extroverts (like Steve Ballmer I would claim as an extrovert) and tap into both sets of skills in order to have a company that thrives both in deep thinking and building teams and going out into the world to sell those ideas.”
4. Steven Spielberg
Even one of the most successful, wealthiest, and influential personalities in Hollywood is an introvert. Director and producer Steven Spielberg has admitted as much and says he would prefer to spend time getting lost in movies.
5. Sir Isaac Newton
One of the most important figures in science, his Principia formulated the laws of motion and universal gravitation. Isaac Newton was known to be “a deeply introverted character and fiercely protective of his privacy.”
6. Eleanor Roosevelt
Though she a shy and retiring individual, Eleanor Roosevelt “was a woman who gave 348 press conferences as First Lady, was a United Nations delegate, a human rights activist, a teacher, and a lecturer who averaged 150 speaking engagements a year throughout the 1950s.”
7. Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg told The New York Times in 2010 that Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of the social network site, “is shy and introverted and he often does not seem very warm to people who don’t know him, but he is warm.” She added, “He really cares about the people who work here.”
8. Larry Page
The co-founder of Google, Page became the search engine’s CEO in 2011. Many believed that Page was an odd choice for CEO because he’s “personally reserved, unabashedly geeky, and said to be introverted.”
9. Al Gore
The former vice president, presidential candidate, and author of An Inconvenient Truth is another public figure who found success despite being an introvert.
10. Marissa Mayer
The current Yahoo! CEO may be well-known, but Mayer still believes in quiet leadership and has admitted that, “I’m just geeky and shy and I like to code…”
11. Abraham Lincoln
The introverted leadership skills of the 16th US president have been studied often by researchers and educators because of his “geekiness,” dignity, and quietness.
12. J.K. Rowling
The creator of Harry Potter came up with the idea of her most famous character while traveling from Manchester to London. Rowling recalls, “I had been writing almost continuously since the age of six but I had never been so excited about an idea before. To my immense frustration, I didn’t have a pen that worked, and I was too shy to ask anybody if I could borrow one…”
13. Warren Buffett
Known as the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett is known as one of the most successful introverts and businessmen in the world. According to Buffett, when he started out, he had the “intellect for business,” but he felt he had to enroll in Dale Carnegie’s, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” course of seminars, because he didn’t have a business persona.
14. Mahatma Gandhi
Known for being the master of nonviolent resistance, Gandhi once said, “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”
15. Hillary Clinton
The former first lady, secretary of state, and current presidential candidate isn’t an extrovert like her husband Bill. This might be why some people believe that Clinton isn’t that warm of a person.
16. Michael Jordan
His Airness is one of the greatest basketball players of all-time. He also happens to be one of the greatest introvert athletes.
17. Charles Darwin
The renowned scientists and author of The Origin of Species was a quiet type who enjoyed solitude.
18. Meryl Streep
Like many actors and actresses, Meryl Streep is a known introvert. However, Streep is a three-time Academy Award winner who is known for her preparation in becoming every character she has portrayed.
19. Elon Musk
The founder of PayPal, Space X, and Tesla has been open about how he went from an “introverted engineer” to being the next Steve Jobs.
20. Dr. Seuss
Arguably one of the greatest children’s book authors of all-time wrote his stories alone, and according to Susan Cain, “was afraid of meeting the kids who read his books for fear they would be disappointed at how quiet he was.”
21. Frederic Chopin
This world-renowned and inspirational composer was so introverted that he gave only about 30 public performances in his lifetime. Instead, he played for small groups of friends and made a living by selling his compositions and teaching piano. Chopin’s most quiet and troubled times have become known as his most productive composition periods.
22. Steve Wozniak
The Apple co-founder described his creative process in his book iWoz as follows:“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.”
23. Barack Obama
The current president of the United States made history in 2008 by becoming the first African-American elected into the office. He’s also a known introvert. In fact, columnist David Brooks stated in the The New York Times, “Being led by Barack Obama is like being trumpeted into battle by Miles Davis. He makes you want to sit down and discern.”
More From Inc.
8 Truisms Successful People Never Use
The Surprising Myths About Happiness at Work
7 Painless Networking Hacks for Introverts
Photo of Meryl Streep courtesy of Shutterstock.
About The Author
Inc.com is where you can find everything you need to know to start and grow your business now. Inc.com is replete with small business ideas, information, and inspiration, as well as practical advice from those who have done it before.