These famous business introverts demonstrate the power of quiet leadership

You don’t have to be the loudest person in the room to lead it - as these famous introvert entrepreneurs are proving.

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Helena Young
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On the surface, being an introvert and starting a business sound like conflicting statements. Introverts are naturally introspective and work best on their own. Surely you need to be a loud, brash salesman to run a successful team?

This, and other cliched ideas of what makes the ‘perfect entrepreneur’, can scare more soft-spoken individuals away from realising their business idea.

But in truth, leaders come in all shapes, sizes, and styles. And some of the most successful self-describe as “quiet leaders”. Characterised as thoughtful and reflective, they will put their team’s wins ahead of their own rather than steal the show.

Below, we highlight five famous, introverted entrepreneurs, all of whom have found success because of – not in spite of – the unique skills that quiet leaders possess.

1. Jack Dorsey

By JD Lasica from Pleasanton, CA, US – Jack Dorsey, CC BY 2.0,

Jack Dorsey is the creator of not one, not two, but three of the world’s most innovative businesses: Twitter, Square, and Bluesky (okay, we might have snuck that last one in).

Unlike fellow tech titans Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos, though, Dorsey is notorious for keeping out of the spotlight. Even when he was CEO of Twitter (now X) very few people could have picked him out of a lineup, and his management style is reportedly similar.

Interviewers describe Dorsey’s demeanour as “calm and collected”; a man who feels more comfortable chatting to journalists in jeans than impressing them at a TedTalk.

And, despite managing a workforce of over 8,000 employees at Square, Dorsey also appears to relish quiet activities where he works on his own. He’s completed silent meditation retreats in India and Myanmar, and reportedly studied botanical illustration.

Dorsey himself attributed his quiet, thoughtful personality as the reason he was able to run two successful businesses at once. In a 2011 interview with Techonomy, he revealed how he ‘themes’ his weekdays, with the day of rest instead being used for reflection.

“Sunday is reflection, feedback, strategy, and getting ready for the week”, he explained.

2. Bill Gates

By Joi Ito from Inbamura, Japan – Steve Jobs and Bill Gates on Flickr, CC BY 2.0,

It might not surprise you to learn that Bill Gates, CEO and co-founder of Microsoft and self-described “computer geek”, is an introvert.

Gates was 13-years-old when he began programming computers. His love of working alone meant he originally shied away from the idea of running a company when his friend, Paul Allen first pitched the idea in 1975.

As a natural anti-social type, he struggled at first with the collaborative elements of running a company. “I had to say to myself, ‘Ok, we’re going to ship code that I didn’t edit,’” he told students during a Q&A at Harvard University. “That was hard for me.”

As it turns out, business management skills are something you can learn on the job. While delegation still doesn’t come naturally to Gates, he is proof that leaving your comfort zone can enable introverted people (and million-pound software companies) to thrive.

“That idea of being an academic to being a CEO, manager, leader type, that sort of developed over time,” Gates said.

3. Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer (1)

By Magnus Höij – “Marissa Mayer, Google” at Flickr, CC BY 2.0,

As the ex-chief executive of Yahoo!, Google’s first ever female engineer, and the founder of her own tech corporation, Sunshine, Marissa Mayer’s resume is full to bursting.

Yet, Mayer has made no secret that she is an introverted person who dislikes attention. “I didn’t set out to be at the top of technology companies. I’m just geeky and shy and I like to code”, she told Vogue.

Mayer has admitted that she struggles with shyness, which can sometimes cause stress during networking events. She has said that during the first fifteen minutes she wants to leave any party, including one in her own home.

But this shyness dissipates when it comes to her passions. She has said she loves product design and enjoys working with teams to find solutions. And, like Dorsey, her reflective nature has helped her to identify areas of improvement in her own skill set.

“I got every single one of my promotions by asking and getting feedback for it and planning,” she told a group of Harvard business students.

4. Tej Lalvani

Tej Lalvani

By HayC2 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

He’s one of the UK’s most feared business people, having appeared alongside Deborah Meaden and Peter Jones on the BBC television series Dragon’s Den. Still, as it turns out, the CEO of the UK’s largest vitamin company, Vitabiotics is as scared of you as you are of him.

In a heartfelt LinkedIn post, the business man admitted to having “moments of self-doubt,” and that he “has struggled with confidence and still to this day has to force [myself] out of [my] comfort zone.”

Despite this, Lalvani argues that introverts can excel in a surprising area of expertise: presenting. As he sees it, quieter team members can make for the best public speakers.

“Yes it may not come naturally. But [introverts will] think carefully about what they want to say, and it will be based on careful observation and research,” he explained.

“Instead of trying to sound impressive, introverts strive to present valuable and poignant information in a way that will resonate with audiences. How do I know all this? I am one!”

5. Steve Wozniak

By vonguard from Oakland, Nmibia – PeterUploaded by YMS, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Steve Jobs cast a long shadow over the offices of technology giant, Apple. But his shadow was one that Apple co-founder and introvert, Steve Wozniak, was only too happy to live in.

As a natural homebody, Wozniak has credited watching Star Trek episodes for his love of engineering, as well as the genesis of his world-changing idea of the Apple computer.

Wozniak first tinkered away at the design’s first iteration for no other reason than to impress members of his Palo Alto–based local Computer Club. Recognising its potential, he then relied on Jobs as his extroverted business partner to market the idea on a large scale.

To the average layman, Jobs is the face of the Apple brand. It feels unfair. But taking a behind-the-scenes role has allowed Wozniak to get on with doing what he loves: inventing.

Wozniak has described himself as an artist. “And artists work best alone,” he adds. “[They work] best outside of corporate environments, best where they can control an invention’s design without a lot of other people designing it for marketing or some other committee.”

How to run a business as an introvert

If one thread links all of the above famous introverted entrepreneurs, it is their unapologetic approach to a love of invention, introspection, and working alone.

Still, a successful enterprise obviously cannot be a one-man band. That’s why a common crutch that many introverts lean on is close relationships and mentors to help coach them through the more social and performative aspects of running a company.

“Mentors [give] you the key insights and advice to help you overall shape your career,” says Marissa Mayer. “It feels natural to talk to the person that you admire or respect who’s on a similar career path, or in a similar space, or understands the problem really well.”

Meeting mentors requires attending business events, which can feel overwhelming for introverted people. This year, London will host the UK’s first ever networking conference for introverted business leaders, on 13 September 2024.

Organiser, Carol Stewart says the event aims to celebrate and recognise that “there is not just one valid way of being”.

“Introverts also have strengths that will help a business,” adds Stewart. “Or to borrow a quote from Gandhi: ‘In a gentle way you can shake the world.’”

Want to practise your networking skills? Find out more about 83 FREE business events taking place this June in your local area.

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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