Elon Musk – who identifies as an “introverted engineer” – has spoken in the past about how he had no choice but to overcome his shyness in order to propel his business. Musk said: “It took a lot of practice and effort to be able to go up on stage and not just stammer. As the CEO you kind of have to.”
Psychologists have spent decades debating whether introverts or extroverts make better entrepreneurs. Some suggest that introverts’ aversion to social interaction will limit their opportunities in business, while others argue that introverts make better listeners and problem-solvers – two definable traits of good leadership.
The reality is that rebel entrepreneurs must get rid of being “too shy” and be confident in building relationships. If you identify as an introvert you may feel ill-equipped in doing so. Luckily, no single person is entirely introverted or extroverted. In his extensive research on the topic, Carl Jung found that the two exist on a spectrum. Moreover, it is possible to become more extroverted through small changes in behaviour.
In 2015, psychologists Nathan Hudson and Christopher Fraley challenged a group of undergraduates to change specific elements of their personality in a 16-week intensive course. The majority of students stated that their aim was to become more extroverted by the end of the study. Hudson and Fraley encouraged the students to set small, specific goals throughout the course – reach out to someone you recently met, or arrange to meet somebody you don’t know very well for coffee. After 16 weeks, the study’s participants noted a major change in their personalities, and they readily identified as much more extroverted as a result.
Hudson and Fraley concluded that if we truly wish to become more extroverted, it is futile to work towards a general goal of “being more social” or “being more outgoing”. In order to enact real change, setting smaller, workable goals – just as the students did – is much more realistic.
When it comes to extroversion and introversion, we are only limited by our own perceptions of who we are. A rebel entrepreneur knows that by changing their behaviour, their mindset will follow.