An NYSE exec who’s interviewed hundreds of business leaders says you don’t have to be an extrovert to be a successful entrepreneur

Betty Liu.

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Betty Liu.
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John Lamparski/Getty Images for Advertising Week New York

  • You don’t have to be extroverted to become a successful entrepreneur.
  • Betty Liu, an entrepreneur and the executive vice chairman at the New York Stock Exchange, said despite her reputation as an expert networker, she considers herself introverted.
  • Many top leaders, including Bill Gates and Barack Obama, have also been described as introverted.

In the business world, introverts seem to have the deck stacked against them.

Research has shown that extroverts are 25% more likely than introverts to land high-paying jobs, and more than 60% of the executives polled in Harvard Business Review survey said they viewed introversion as a barrier to leadership.

But Betty Liu, the executive vice chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, is challenging the idea that people need a specific type of personality to succeed.

Liu is the founder of Radiate, an online library of educational videos about leadership and management, and previously was an anchor for Bloomberg TV. Over the years, she has interviewed hundreds of business leaders, from Warren Buffett and Elon Musk to Ariana Huffington and Magic Johnson.

“I think there’s this misconception sometimes that when you get to the top of wherever you are, you have to be a certain type of person, and I just don’t think that’s true,” Liu told Business Insider. “I’ve seen too many kinds of personalities, too many different ways of becoming successful, that there isn’t any one type.”

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Liu described herself as an introvert – a label that would seem to clash with her reputation as an expert networker.

“When people see where I am, they think I’m a certain kind of person,” she said. “They see me as a master networker, that I’ve been able to establish all these relationships, therefore I must be this extremely gregarious, extroverted, hobnobbing, party-going person. And that couldn’t be further from the truth.”

In reality, a number of notable leaders have been described as introverted, including Buffett, Bill Gates, Marissa Mayer, Mark Zuckerberg, and even US presidents such as Barack Obama and Abraham Lincoln.

Despite the data showing introverts often get passed up for top job opportunities, other research has shown that introverts tend to prove themselves the better leaders. One recent study suggested introverted people are less impulsive than extroverts in their decision-making, while a 2010 study found introverted leaders were more likely than extroverted ones to listen to their followers and make them feel valued.

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It goes to show that there isn’t one recipe for success.

“There are people at the top who are introverted, there are people at the top who are extroverted, there are people at the top who are both,” Liu said. “There are all sorts of different pathways to get there.”