Do You Have What it Takes to be an Entrepreneur?
Posted by: Alex Linley
In November last year I was honoured to give one of the keynote addresses at the Ideas on Stage Conference in Paris, an event at the interface of innovation, communication and entrepreneurship, where many of Europe’s leading technology start-ups and incubators were to be found.
The topic I had been asked to speak about was one that is very close to my heart: entrepreneurship, and more specifically, what it takes from a psychological perspective to succeed as an entrepreneur. I argued that there are three themes that distinguish an entrepreneur from the general population. My talk was illustrated with the strengths that enable this, together with examples of famous entrepreneurs who demonstrated these strengths.
First, successful entrepreneurs see a different future to the rest of us. Entrepreneurs have a compelling vision of how the world can be different, which they then set about making happen. The entrepreneurial strengths at work here include how they see the future (Strategic Awareness, think Meg Whitman of eBay and now HP fame), how they invent the future (Innovation, think Steve Jobs, need I say more?!), or about how they challenge the future (Counterpoint, think Jeff Bezos of Amazon, renowned for taking an 8-year view on how things will shape out over time).
Second, these entrepreneurs are driven to do something about the different future they see. It’s one thing to have an idea, quite another to act on it. There are different strengths that inspire entrepreneurs in different ways, for different reasons. It might be the drive inside you (Drive, as exemplified by Martha Lane Fox of lastminute.com renown), the drive to win (Competitive, think Larry Ellison of Oracle), or the drive to make a difference (Mission, as shown by Camila Batmanghelidjh of Kids Company). Whatever the source, you need something that gives you the get-up-and-go to get started and get things done.
This leads us to the third theme. Entrepreneurs take action and execute. In entrepreneurship, execution is everything. This execution comes through being prepared to take a risk (Adventure, which Richard Branson demonstrates in his escapades as well as his businesses), to take the opportunity (Connector, as demonstrated by Loic Le Meur, founder of the superb Le Web conference – coming to London on 19-20 June this year), or simply to take action (Action, think Lord Alan Sugar of Amstrad and subsequently The Apprentice fame).
Critically, though, it isn’t any one of these strengths that makes the entrepreneurial difference, it’s how they are combined. And not just how they combine in any one person, but how the entrepreneur deliberately combines them in his or her team t0 build a great company that will deliver success.
As such, I argued in my presentation that the greatest strength of all was in knowing your own strengths, knowing the strengths of others, and then using this knowledge to build a great complementary team that leverages the collective capability of its members.
As the late, great Peter Drucker wrote 45 years ago in The Effective Executive, “the unique purpose of organization is to make strength productive”. It is exactly this that the greatest entrepreneurs do so well.
What do you think? Do these three themes capture entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship? Should we add Bounceback and Resilience as a fourth theme? What have your entrepreneurial experiences and observations taught you? Share your comments on The Capp Blog.