Research shows around half of Americans are introverts. Despite that figure--and some pretty high-profile introverts like Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, and Eleanor Roosevelt--introverts often still get a bad rap. That's especially true when it comes to our elected officials.
After all, don't we want to have leaders that are charismatic like Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan?
Introverts have been to known to be pretty solid and efficient leaders because, as noted by Bruna Martinuzzi on the OPEN Forum, they are better listeners, quietly process their thoughts, have humility, are calm and collected, and make more meaningful connections.
For example, the following 10 individuals were all introverts and managed to make it to the highest elected political office in the country.
1. Thomas Jefferson
Born in 1743, Thomas Jefferson would become one of the most famous figures in American history. Not only was he the author of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson was also the governor of Virginia, the Minister to France, and third President of the United States. He was also an architect, inventor, linguist, and the founder of the University of Virginia.
Jefferson, however, was also known to be shy and avoided public speaking as much as possible. In fact, while writing the Declaration of Independence, he was known as the "silent member" of Congress. While Jefferson may have come across as cold, he was an emotional and sympathetic person who had intense conversations.
2. James Madison
James Madison was born in 1751 and is often refereed to as the “Father of the Constitution” since he was responsible for drafting the document--specifically the Bill of Rights. After serving as the secretary of state, Madison was elected the fourth President of the United States and served from 1809-1817. Following the death of Thomas Jefferson, Madison was appointed as the second Rector (“President”) of the University of Virginia.
Madison enjoyed playing chess, reading in Greek or Latin, taking hikes through forests, and horseback riding without his wife Dolly or stepson John Todd. While he was an introvert, Madison did enjoy socializing with friends and even was known to attend parties occasionally.
3. John Quincy Adams
The son of John Adams, John Quincy Adams was born in 1767. He was appointed by George Washington as the minister to the Netherlands in 1793 and also represented Massachusetts in both the Senate and House of Representatives. Adams was also a Harvard professor and the sixth President of the United States from 1825 to 1829.
Adams is also remembered for shaping America's foreign policy and representing the defendants in United States v. The Amistad Africans in the Supreme Court of the United States.
Adams himself admitted he "was a man of reserved, cold, austere and forbidding manners." In fact, when Washington appointed him the minister of the Netherlands, Adams declined preferring to live a quiet life reading in Massachusetts, but was persuaded to accept the position by his father.
4. Abraham Lincoln
The 16th President was born in 1809 and had the unfortunate responsibility of leading the country during the Civil War. Lincoln was primarily self-taught, became a lawyer, and was a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Illinois’s 7th district before reaching presidency. Today, numerous political leaders and CEOs turn to Lincoln's life and work for inspiration.
While Lincoln was quiet and enjoyed solitude, many have found that was a great leader because he was able to "demonstrate the importance of resilience, forbearance, emotional intelligence, thoughtful listening and the consideration of all sides of an argument. They also show the value of staying true to a larger mission."
5. Woodrow Wilson
Wilson, the 28th President of the United States, was born in 1856 served as the President of Princeton and Governor of New Jersey prior to being elected President of the United States in 1913. Wilson sponsored the League of Nations following World War I and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919. Following his presidency, he became the President of the American Historical Association.
Wilson enjoyed motor vehicles, cycling, and baseball. He's also known for this inspiring quote, "You are not here merely to prepare to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand."
6. Calvin Coolidge
Born in 1872, Calvin Coolidge became the 30th President of the United States in 1923. Prior to his Presidency, Coolidge was a lawyer from Vermont and the governor of Massachusetts. During his time as Warren G. Harding's Vice President, Coolidge earned the nickname "Silent Cal" because he said few words, despite enjoying practical jokes. Coolidge was able to restore confidence in the White House following the scandals of the Harding administration and his second inauguration was the first to be broadcast on the radio.
Most political conservatives still turn to Coolidge because of his belief in small government. He also once said, “Don’t you know that four fifths of all our troubles in this life would disappear if we would just sit down and keep still?”
7. Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight Eisenhower, born in 1890, was a five-star general in the United States Army, President Truman's Army Chief of Staff, and the President of Columbia University. He became the 34th President of the United States after winning a landslide election in 1952. During his Presidency the country was prosperous, saw the end of the Korean War, launched the “atoms for peace” program and began implementing desegregation.
Eisenhower enjoyed golf and poker, and once said, "Accomplishment will prove to be a journey, not a destination." Ike had a pragmatic approach to achieving his objectives, which explains why he is remembered as a such a great military and political leader.
8. John F. Kennedy
Believe it or not, the popular 35th president was also an introvert. Born in 1917, John Fitzgerald Kennedy commanded torpedo boats in the Pacific during World War II, represented Massachusetts in both the Senate and House of Representative, and became the youngest elected President in 1961. He is often listed as one of the best presidents of all-time and came in third in Gallup’s List of People that Americans Most Widely Admired in the 20th Century poll.
Despite his military, political, and social standings, one former cabinet member called JFK a "very introverted man" who "kept a lot of things to himself." His wife, Jackie described as "a simple man, yet so complex that he would frustrate anyone trying to understand him."
9. Richard Nixon
Born in 1913, Richard Nixon also served in the Navy during World War II, a Senator and Representative from California, and Vice President under Dwight Eisenhower. He became the 37th President in 1969 where he opened diplomatic relations with China after visiting in 1972, presided over the Apollo 11 moon landing, and established the EPA. He also is the only president to resign following Watergate.
Nixon is a well-known introvert. In fact, in an essay written by Tom Wicker, "Nixon was a highly intelligent man who relied greatly on his own intelligence and that of others, who had a considerable capacity to read and understand technical papers, who retreated to a room alone and wrote in longhand on a yellow legal pad the gist of his major speeches, who impressed associates with his ability to evaluate disinterestedly the pros and cons of a problem."
10. Barack Obama
Born in 1961, President Barack Obama made history when he became the 44th President of the United of the States in 2008 by being the first African-American to hold the office. After graduating Columbia and Harvard Law University, he was a community organizer, taught Constitutional Law, and represented Illinois in the Senate. In 2009, the President was named the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
According to Peter Baker in The New York Times, "he can rouse a stadium of 80,000 people, but that audience is an impersonal monolith; smaller group settings can be harder for him." Columnist David Brooks adds that "Being led by Barack Obama is like being trumpeted into battle by Miles Davis. He makes you want to sit down and discern."