Introverts get a bad rap. When it comes to famous and powerful individuals, it’s common to associate traits like being outgoing or extroverted with their success.

However, thriving as the center of attention isn’t actually necessary for becoming well accomplished in life.

In fact, there are many famous individuals throughout history (and even some of the biggest stars today) who are shy, quiet and prefer to live their lives out of the spotlight. Keep reading for famous introverts, from Eleanor Roosevelt to Albert Einstein.

The agile introvert: Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, known as a shy, awkward child, according to the official online White House biography fundamentally changed and expanded the role of the first lady through her active participation in American politics.

Eleanor Roosevelt advocated for expanded roles for women in the workplace, the civil rights of African Americans and Asian Americans, and the rights of World War II refugees.

Not content to stay in the background and handle domestic matters, she gave press conferences and spoke out for human rights, children's causes and women's issues, working on behalf of the League of Women Voters.

Despite her introvert tendencies, Eleanor Roosevelt was well-known for giving the fiercest speeches when defending human rights. (Image from YES! Magazine)

The active introvert: Rosa Parks

You’d probably imagine someone who refuses to give up their seat on a bus to a white man to be outgoing and extroverted. However, this was not the case with famous activist, Rosa Parks.

Author Susan Cain wrote in the introduction of her book, Quiet: The Power Of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, “When she [Parks] 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.’”

The phrases radical humility and quiet fortitude are the key to unlocking the secrets of the introverted leader.

The analytical introvert: Bill Gates

Bill Gates, a larger-than-life member of the tech industry, is surprisingly a self-proclaimed introvert.

The founder of Microsoft may know a thing or two about being successful without having to be the most outspoken. When asked about competing in a world of extroverts, Gates stated that he believes introverts can do well “If you’re clever you can learn to get the benefits of being an introvert.”

The curious introvert: Albert Einstein

One of the greatest scientists in history, Einstein believed that his creativity came from keeping to himself. The physicist has often been quoted as saying, “The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.”

Seeking and sharing knowledge does not have to be loud and rambunctious. There are those like Einstein that can show the world insight and innovation without being an extrovert.

"I went as an observer, not a participant, for I do not think that I ever spoke."

Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa

How do I use this to be the best me?

It simply isn't true that introverts are worried and distressed in leadership situations. Leverage your strengths and your listening skills to lead by listening and forming deep connections with your team in a way that works for you.


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Cover Photo by Marina Verdú