Enter “entrepreneurial traits” into Google, and the menu of frequent searches will complete the query with “… of Steve Jobs” and “… of Bill Gates,” among others. These are the forces of nature that spring to mind for most of us when we think of entrepreneurs–iconic figures who seemed to burst from the womb with enterprise in their DNA.
They inspire, but they also intimidate. What if you weren’t born with Jobs’ creative genius or Gates’ iron will? There’s good news for the rest of us: Entrepreneurs can be guided to success by harnessing crucial attributes. Scholars, business experts and venture capitalists say entrepreneurs can emerge at any stage of life and from any realm, and they come in all personality types and with any grade point average.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, you don’t have to be Type A–that is, an overachieving, hyperorganized workaholic–or an extrovert to launch a successful business. “Type A’s don’t take the risks to be entrepreneurs,” says Elana Fine, managing director of the University of Maryland’s Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship, adding that the same goes for straight-A students. “Very often it’s C students who become entrepreneurs.”
However, the best entrepreneurs do share a collection of characteristics, from tenacity to the ability to tolerate risk, that are crucial to a successful venture. An analysis of 23 research studies published under the title The Big Five Personality Dimensions and Entrepreneurial Status found that entrepreneurs have different personality traits than corporate managers, scoring far higher on traits such as openness to experience (curiosity, innovation) and conscientiousness (self-discipline, motivation) and considerably lower on neuroticism, which allows them to better tolerate stress.