Extraversion and Success

Is there a link between extraversion and success?  My wife and I had a discussion this evening about a possible link between extraversion and success.  Does having extroverted tendencies lead one to have greater success, in business or in life?


Here’s the questions that we talked about:

  • Does being extroverted mean that you’re more successful than if you’re introverted?
  • Is there a point at which extraversion is NOT an advantage?
  • If someone is an introvert, does this mean that they have fewer opportunities?
  • Do introverts need to “fake extraversion” in order to achieve high levels of success?
  • Will a person experience more success by faking a personality that they don’t have, or by finding a vocation that suits their personality?
    • Will an introvert experience success as a CEO if they fake extroversion?
    • Will an extrovert experience success as an engineer by suppressing their extroverted tendencies?
  • Should we encourage our children to “develop” extroverted traits (or is this even possible), in order to make them more successful in society?

Here are some of the comments that we had: first, both introverts and extroverts can train themselves to exhibit behaviors of the other type of personality (i.e. an introvert can force him/herself to talk to other people, or to speak in front of a large group of people).  Second, personality isn’t everything; both nurture and education both contribute to the success of a person.

Lastly, you could find encouragement in the argument of Bryan Caplan’s book, “Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids.”  He says that nurture has very little to do with how kids end up.  He concludes that parents should spend less time and energy trying to influence the children’s lives, because if you are mostly normal parents in how you raise your kids, your kids will end up mostly like you.  You can listen to a podcast of Bryan Caplan here.  You can also watch an interview with Bryan below.

P.S.  I realize that the graph above is flawed (as it doesn’t account for the extreme extroverts and extreme introverts that are highly educated).  I regret the flaws.  There is an anecdotal case to be made that such people do not exist (or, at least, very few exist).

Question: What are your thoughts about extraversion and success?  Does extraversion contribute to success?  You can leave your comments by clicking here.

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    After watching the NBA Finals and hearing the comments about Dirk Nowitski and LeBron James, I think those comments are helpful to this discussion. Nowitski and his team failed to win the championship in 2006. The 2006 series exposed certain weaknesses in the Mavericks and in their star player. Five years later, those weaknesses had been addressed and new skills had been learned. They are the 2011 NBA Champions.

    After the final game, the spotlight has now turned on James and his weaknesses. The future will determine if he took this experience and addressed those weaknesses in his game.

    Extroverts have certain initial advantages in the public arena but also glaring weaknesses that an outgoing personality won’t on its own overcome. Introverts tend to have a skill, the ability to listen to others, that extroverts often struggle with. When we play to our strengths and address our weaknesses, we have greater opportunities for success.

    An introverted baseball player who tended to live in his own world recognized the importance of interacting with his teammates. He chose to work as a salesman in a large department store during the off season. He wanted to get outside his comfort zone and address something that prevented him from being a better teammate. He succeeded.

  • http://papuagirlindallas.blogspot.com/ Kacie

    yes, in America extroverts are more likely to succeed. Our culture values their personality more than that of introverts. The same is true in the American church. I totally fake extraversion so that I will be perceived well. It works.

    However, I am always relieved when I go to Asia and find myself again in a culture that more highly values introverts. I feel like I can be myself there. They may still laugh at funny people, but there’s not an overly weighted scale in terms of who is valued.

  • Tiffany S.

    From my perspective, it seems that extroverts tend to catch the “eye” of those in America. Whether you or I are personally attracted to them probably depends on a number of factors. I was surprised to discover that my husband isn’t as draw to certain people as I am. The qualities that I find endearing are not ones that necessarily rate as high with him. So apparently, different people are drawn to different things. 
    Going back to the theme of your post, in our culture, there are a number of folks that people view as famous or “successful” who were introverts: Isaac Newton, U.S. Grant, Abraham Lincoln, Bill Gates Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison, just to name a few. 

    I tend to be an introvert, yet I still need people and often I really enjoy making my friends laugh. In order to be productive, I find myself needing to push myself beyond my comfort zone. Maybe this is easier for an extrovert? Perhaps their comfort zone is just very different than mine.Someday when I’m a parent, I want my kids to feel accepted in their own skin. At the same time, however, I will seek to equip them for life, which will probably include challenging them to go beyond their comfort zones. The core of who they are doesn’t need to change, but they need to develop skills to compensate in areas where they are weaker. 

    Finally, I would also like to challenge the concept of “success.” What does it mean? Political achievement? Education? Wealth? Eternal legacy? Not to sound preachy, but I’m reminded of the verse describing how pointless it is to “gain the whole world” (“success?”) and “lose your soul.” When all is said and done, it won’t really matter whether my name is ever printed in a newspaper for an achievement, whether history books remember who I am, or whether I died with millions that I will to my children. What will matter is whether my Lord is pleased. That may include becoming famous, respected, wealthy, etc., but those things do not determine true, lasting success. 

    • http://bobewoldt.com Robert Ewoldt

      Good thoughts, Tiffany. I would tend to lean towards arguing that
      introverts have a good place in society, too (being an introvert myself)…
      and it seems to me that there are more jobs available for those that have
      introverted tendencies vs. extroverted tendencies. In other words, there’s
      a lot more jobs that have to do with learned technical skills than
      “inherant” extrovert skills.

      I guess my reasoning goes like this:

      1. Introverts are more likely to apply themselves to an academic pursuit,
      and get a technical degree (engineering, accounting, etc.) than extroverts.
      2. There are more occupations that require a technical degree in our society
      than non-technical degrees (marketing, sales, etc.)
      3. Occupations that require a technical degree are more foundational to our
      economy than non-technical degrees. If we go into a depression, technical
      jobs will be more stable than non-technical.

      That’s why I would say I value introverted tendencies as well as extroverted