Joe Johnson, Ph.D.
Entrepreneur. Investor. Startup Expert.

Entrepreneurs are described in a great many ways. They’re go-getters, innovators, and doers. They’re makers, creators, and inventors.

How you conceptualize entrepreneurs in general, as well as how you view yourself in particular can directly impact the likelihood of your ever venturing into the entrepreneurial arena.

What does it take to be an entrepreneur? Here are 6 character traits which I believe that every successful entrepreneur possesses (I wouldn’t be surprised if you have many of these characteristics):

Passion

What it is:

If you critically examine the stories of famous entrepreneurs, they all share a single common characteristic – passion. They each believed in their mission and were driven to realize that vision.

How it may manifest:

If you have an idea constantly pestering you – the sort of obsession which keeps you up at night – you may have the passion necessary to succeed as an entrepreneur. If you find yourself thinking of how you might make your idea work and planning accordingly, you definitely have the passion required to start your own company. This level of drive is necessary to make things happen, especially since you’ll no longer have a boss telling you what to prioritize or do. You must find and harness this drive within yourself.

Can it be learned?

Passion can’t be learned or taught. If it’s not there, there’s no faking it. However, habits can be formed which mimic drive, though the effect won’t be the same as having a true fire in the belly. If you have an idea that you think may succeed, but you aren’t fully committed to putting in the long nights and hard work necessary to build a business, then it’s likely that the business will fail despite the merits of the concept underpinning it.

Perseverance

What it is:

Entrepreneurs must be able to power through issues (and failures) and persist. As Edison famously said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Perseverance is simply the characteristic of being sufficiently dedicated to your idea that you’ll keep going despite any obstacle.

How it may manifest:

If you’ve always been someone who is up for a challenge and continues to hone a new skill until it’s perfected, you may have the perseverance necessary to be an entrepreneur.

Can it be learned?

If you bristle at a challenge and prefer to take the easy way, entrepreneurship is likely not for you. Being able to learn perseverance, especially in adulthood, is too often situationally-dependent. However, you may find that with the right idea and passion behind you, you can power through seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Leadership

What it is:

Leaders are the compass pointing others in the right direction. The ability to lead isn’t about telling people what to do, but about encouraging and instilling a drive in others. Leadership is comprised of numerous personality characteristics, including confidence, empathy, accountability, and decisiveness.

How it may manifest:

If you excel at sharing your vision and getting others to buy in, you may be a good leader. Leaders make the people around them better and function most effectively in an atmosphere of trust and openness. They make difficult decisions and take responsibility for their actions. They inspire and entrust, all while steering the ship.

Can it be learned?

While some individuals may be innately charismatic, leadership skills may be learned and enhanced. Leaders can learn to be more motivating and inspirational. They can work on ways to encourage and support growth. (You can learn more about the differences between a manager and a leader in this post.)

Self-Awareness

What it is:

You have to know what you don’t know, as well as your areas of weakness in order to mitigate those issues and create a plan for success. This level of self-awareness enables you to partner effectively with others and so compensate for your own deficiencies.

How it may manifest:

The state of being self-aware is often viewed as having the ability to set aside one’s ego in order to identify one’s own shortcomings. If you feel comfortable in both assessing your weaknesses and creating plans for addressing those weaknesses, you likely possess the quality of self-awareness.

Can it be learned?

Self-awareness can definitely be nurtured and improved over time. Recognizing one’s strengths and weaknesses isn’t easy, but it’s worth the effort. With self-awareness, you can mitigate your weaknesses and enhance your strengths.

One means of working on your self-awareness is to run a personal SWOT assessment.

Vision

What it is:

Vision may be described as creativity, ingenuity, and foresight – the ability to know how to solve a problem for others while also leveraging that perspective into a profitable business. Vision enables you to both see a way forward and plan the steps required to get you from point A to points B, C, and beyond.

Vision can also be seen as a sort of inquisitiveness; an ability to continue asking “what if?”

How it may manifest:

Are people surprised by your innovative ideas? Have you been called a “problem-solver?” Do you often find solutions to issues that others haven’t even considered? If you’re an idea person, you may have the vision necessary to craft a new company.

Can it be learned?

While “vision” may be innate in some, it’s also (at least partially) the result of having accumulated a critical mass of the right information. Understanding the market and your industry – while creating a space where you can think creatively – can help you to nurture your vision and so facilitate the production of products and/or services that people desire.

Integrity

What it is:

While not strictly necessary to become an entrepreneur, it’s clear that many successful entrepreneurs have a high level of personal integrity. It’s this very trustworthiness and moral character which compels others to follow them and buy into their vision.

How it may manifest:

Integrity is moral grit. It’s the desire to do the right thing, even when it’s difficult and even (especially!) when nobody is watching. Integrity means being trustworthy, reliable, honest, and moral.

Can it be learned?

Some believe that integrity is formed in childhood and that ethics classes and regulations have little effect on those inclined to take advantage of others. However, while some individuals may not have been raised in a way conducive to inculcating honesty and morality, a desire to become trustworthy and to do the right thing may help them to establish their own integrity later in life. Additionally, creating processes and establishing checks and balances may assist entrepreneurs as they do the hard work necessary to remain on the straight and narrow.

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Possessing these traits won’t necessarily lead to entrepreneurship, but they do tend to positively correlate with entrepreneurialism. Similarly, they’re no guarantee of success. However, they do collectively indicate a drive toward innovating, creating, and doing that is certainly a key factor in any successful endeavor.

About the Author

Dr. Joe Johnson is an entrepreneur, investor, and startup expert. He is the founder and principal of GoodField Investments and the GoodField Foundation (www.GoodField.com).

Joe has a Ph.D. in Entrepreneurial Leadership and an MBA. He is the author of the upcoming book on The Science of Why Most Entrepreneurs Fail and Some Succeed.

Most importantly, he is the incredibly blessed husband of one amazing wife and father of six wonderful children. He resides in Bradenton, Florida. For more information on Dr. Johnson and his work, go to www.JoeJohnson.com.