What are the personality traits, core values, and motivations that make for a great entrepreneur? It’s a tricky question to answer, because the best entrepreneurs come from wildly different backgrounds, started businesses for a wide variety of reasons, and often have deeply personal missions driving their work. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates couldn’t have been more different in terms of personality and their approaches to fostering the personal computer revolution, for instance, but both were clearly exceptional entrepreneurs.
To gain a better understanding of what makes a great entrepreneur, it might help to think about the topic from another perspective. Let’s put the role of the entrepreneur into a format most of us are familiar with. What would the job description for an exceptional entrepreneur say?
We’ve all seen job descriptions before, usually in want ads. A company is seeking a person to handle a specific set of tasks and responsibilities. Often, they’re also looking for certain qualities, skills, and strengths in the person they believe to be important to doing the job well. These descriptions are typically broken down into “must have” traits, “should haves” and “plusses.”
Let’s take a look at the traits I believe to be most important for any entrepreneur. If you’re considering taking the leap into starting a business, viewing yourself through this lens can provide plenty of valuable insight into how suited you are to the job.
- Integrity: Trust matters in the business world. The more that your customers, partners, investors, and employees feel that they can trust you, the better your relationships will tend to be. Good people only want to do business with other good people.
- Initiative: A successful entrepreneur must be willing to seize opportunities as they present themselves. This is more than just having a “self-starter” personality, it’s a need to create something out of nothing.
- Intelligence: When you’re starting and running a business, there is no playbook for success. You need to have a reasonable amount of intelligence simply to survive. Being a problem solver is a big part of the job, as is a willingness to face any challenge fate throws in your path. You don’t need to be a genius, but you do need a good mix of street smarts and emotional intelligence of you want to succeed.
The Should Haves
- Confidence: There are few personality traits more valuable than confidence. Being comfortable in your own skin makes other people want to be around you, listen to what you have to say, and follow your lead. Starting and running a successful company is hard to do in any context, and it’s even more difficult if you don’t believe in your own abilities. Actively developing your self-confidence is one of the best investments you can make.
- Coachability: No one has all the answers, particularly in business. Your success will often depend on seeking out advice from great teachers. The more quickly and easily you can learn from others, the easier it will be to absorb the countless lessons you will need to learn as you develop your business.
- Communication: As a leader, you will constantly need to effectively communicate your ideas, thoughts, and directions. Part of the job of an entrepreneur is to influence the thoughts and actions of other people and to show them how your needs and their needs can align to benefit everyone. If you can’t effectively communicate, you’re making it harder for everyone else, as they have to compensate and guess just to get the work done.
The Big Plusses
- Humility: Failure is inevitable in business. Failure is also your best teacher as an entrepreneur, helping to inform your future successes in countless ways. It also humbles you, turning bravado into experience. Confidence without humility is often just coming from a place of ignorance and arrogance, and most people can see right through it. Having real confidence tempered by humility, however, tells a very different story.
- Agility: Today’s business world moves quickly, and you have to be fast on your feet if you want to stay ahead. Reacting deftly and confidently to challenges and opportunities makes all the difference.
- Steadfastness: The more battle-tested you are by stressful situations, and the more internal fortitude you’ve shown, the more likely it is you have what it takes to handle the unpredictable, stressful world of running a business. Great entrepreneurs don’t cut and run at the first sign of trouble. They hang in here, and they muscle through the hard times in a way that their customers, partners, and employees can depend on.
What if you don’t have all of these traits? Does it mean that your business ventures are doomed to failure? No, of course not. It just gives you some things to think about, to practice, and to develop along your path towards becoming a great entrepreneur.