Yes, Even Introverts Can Build Empires

Written By: Catherine Porth

Catherine Porth | 2022 LHS Women’s Summit

Having spent the majority of my teens, 20s, and 30s learning about, working in, and teaching business – I consider myself more prepared than most in founding and running a non-profit. However, one thing I never even considered needing to prepare for was having to constantly assert that I am indeed the founder of Let Her Speak.

I always joke that I founded this organization by accident – and that’s pretty much the truth. For the first 3 years of its existence, I considered Let Her Speak to be a passion project and nothing more. It wasn’t until early 2020 that I finally accepted that I had created something much bigger than that. Suddenly I found myself grappling with something most introverted founders struggle with – how can I grow a successful organization and show my face as little as possible?

While I knew I couldn’t completely hide behind my brand, I took the strategy of making the women in our community front and center. Afterall, I created this organization to serve women, not to be self-serving. Slowly since expanding Let Her Speak in 2020, I’ve started to show my face more (at the encouragement of many friends) and speak at events. While these interactions always fill me up and help me realize the difference we’re making – inevitably, I’ll end up fielding questions like: 

Them: So you’re running the Let Her Speak affiliate program for Knoxville, right?

Me: No, I developed this organization on my own. It’s born and raised in Knoxville, TN.

Them: Did you really come up with Let Her Speak on your own?

Me: Yes, yes I did. I interviewed 50 women in the summer of 2017 and came up with the concept for an event to bring women together and talk about the things we never get to talk about. I’ve been fortunate to have amazing women around me who have supported my work and offered advice. I also work with incredibly talented artists, marketers, and content creators to build our brand.

I know the people asking these questions are genuinely curious about the organization and I take it as a compliment that our brand and reputation makes it seem like a much larger movement, but I also can’t help but feel frustrated by the underlying disbelief in people’s questions when they meet me.

Considering I work with entrepreneurs and founders a lot, I see the common misconception constantly that we are all extroverted, gregarious figures. Our society LOVES to celebrate larger-than-life leaders to the point where many believe only those types of personalities can succeed in this space. By contrast, I’m fairly introverted, very reserved, and typically try not to direct a lot of attention on myself.

“Suddenly I found myself grappling with something most introverted founders struggle with – how can I grow a successful organization and show my face as little as possible?”

It’s these very characteristics that go against the grain of a “typical” leader that I see as superpowers – especially when it comes to doing impact work. I’ve been fortunate to meet a lot of other leaders like me who are passionate about doing the work more than talking about the work. And I’ve noticed several superpowers we all have in common:

Intentionality

Those of us who tend towards introversion tend to listen more than we speak. We enjoy observing and taking in all the information we can so we can fully understand a situation and the people impacted before offering a solution. When we do offer advice or solutions, it’s after we’ve had time to process and analyze everything.


Empathy

In our Let Her Lead program, we define empathy as the willingness to see, hear, and seek to understand another person’s perspective. This superpower is not only important, it’s necessary to doing impact work well. Being able to put one’s ego aside, consider other’s perspectives, and arrive at a decision together can create change that takes everyone’s needs into consideration.


Insightfulness

Given that introverts tend to be great listeners, collectors of all the information, and problem solvers – it’s no surprise that when you ask for their opinion on something, the answer will be filled with connected dots you may not have realized were there. Afterall, a lot of our time is spent consuming books, podcasts, and other content then giving ourselves time for quiet introspection.


Relationship-builder

One common misconception of introverts is that we don’t like people. The fact is, we enjoy having deep conversations with people – it’s being in crowds of over stimulation that drains us. Because we prefer to form meaningful connections with others, we also tend to develop stronger relationships. Having these relationships allows us to build alliances and teams with others who are passionate about the work and want to make change happen.


Doer

The majority of introverts I know are all “get-s**t-done” people. We love having deep, meaningful conversations – but we also recognize that doing has a greater impact than talking. Meetings that drag on for hours are not our happy place. We thrive in spaces where we can do the dang thing – even better if we can do it in peace.


If you’re someone who tends towards the introvert side of the introvert/extrovert spectrum – I hope you’re realizing that you also have these same superpowers. While the media that surrounds us perpetuates the stereotype of what a leader should look like – the fact is the world needs more introverts in leadership. Especially in impact work and other spaces where disruption and new visions are necessary.

So, consider this a personal message to YOU that you are not only capable of building an empire of change, you are uniquely qualified to do it. Yes, you will likely need to speak to groups of people, be a voice for your organization, and socialize (and, yes, these activities will exhaust you – don’t forget to build in recharging time!). But just think what our world could look like if we had more voices and perspectives like yours leading.

The world needs your voice – build that empire.

About the author » Catherine Porth

Catherine Porth is the Founder & Chief Advocate of Let Her Speak. Her mission is to improve and grow opportunities for women, one inspiring story at a time. If you are interested in learning more about or getting involved in our community, contact her at catherine@letherspeakusa.org.

Instagram: /letherspeakusa

LinkedIn: /catherineporth

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