Are entrepreneurs born or made?


These days, entrepreneurs and self-employed people have become the latest business buzzwords. If you’re not a business owner, how does this talk apply to you? Even if you never plan to start your own business, developing an entrepreneurial spirit can enhance your productivity at work. It can help you develop the leadership skills you need to propel your company and your career to greatness.

What Is an Entrepreneurial Spirit, and How Can It Work for You?

Although many people talk about a particular “entrepreneurial” personality, it’s not clear there is such a thing.

According to Harvard Business School Online, no specific personality profile leads to success as an entrepreneur. There are, however, some personality traits that are characteristic of successful entrepreneurs. They include:

• Curiosity
• Team management
• Adaptation to change
• Willingness to take risks
• Decisiveness
• Persistence

The good news is that those same characteristics will make you successful in any career. They’re what lead to success in team leadership and project management.

What Does Science Say?

Scientists and sociologists have grappled with the question, “Are entrepreneurs born or made?” In recent years, some researchers have claimed there is an “entrepreneurial gene,” and that successful self-starters share this gene. That intriguing idea, however, has been roundly criticized by other researchers, who say opportunity and training are the keys to success. 

In 2009, Cambridge University scientists developed what they called an “entrepreneur drug” that used brain chemistry to help people develop the mindsets of successful self-starters. They said the drug helped people improve their ability to tolerate risk and their level of cognitive flexibility. Cognitive flexibility refers to the ability to produce a new solution when the first one fails. 

Train Your Brain for Success

While we still don’t have a drug that will make you a productivity superstar, there are things you can do to keep your mind healthy and focused. In an article for Forbes, Travis Bradberry writes that people with high levels of emotional intelligence (EI) were more professionally and financially successful than their counterparts. These people have several habits that set them apart. Typically, they:

• Ignore fearful thoughts. Uncertainty causes fear, and fear of the future can make you do foolish things. When you react from fear, you’re not making smart decisions.

• Cope well with stress. Staying positive, managing uncertainty and embracing what you can’t control are all parts of managing stress. If this sounds like mindfulness, it is remarkably similar. A mindful approach will always help you deal with stress and focus on being productive.

• Act decisively. This is one characteristic of successful entrepreneurs that people with high EI share. The ability to make decisions is key to moving forward.

How To Develop an Entrepreneurial Mindset: 4 Action Steps You Can Take Today

1. Discover opportunities for entrepreneurship

According to the Harvard Business Reviewone definition of an entrepreneur is a person or team who actively looks for opportunities for innovation. 

You don’t have to start a business to develop this mindset. Look around at your current workplace. Can you find ways to streamline your operations? Are any of your team members ready for more responsibility? Discover opportunities for growth where you are.

2. Develop entrepreneurial skills

Were you born with the skills most entrepreneurs have? If you weren’t, can you learn them? Many studies and business experts agree that you can.

2010 study found that there was no “prototypical personality” that went with being a successful entrepreneur. The study concluded, “The focus of entrepreneurship education and training programs should be skill development, not behavior modification.” 

In a 2013 study of entrepreneurial skills, researchers found that the biggest predictor of success was having a varied set of work experiences. This was even more important than education qualifications or years of experience. 

What does this mean for you? It suggests that successful entrepreneurs take everything they’ve learned from their life experiences and use that knowledge to face challenges. Think about your own past experiences. What have they taught you about how to face the future, overcome obstacles and make tough decisions? 

3. Cultivate luck

There’s no denying that luck plays a role in many people’s success. There’s also no denying the old saying, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” 

You can cultivate luck by preparing yourself to meet it. Most people understand this preparation to mean being sure you have the skills, training, experience and willingness to take advantage of an opportunity. In the book Heart, Smarts, Guts and Luck, the authors say that anyone can learn the components of luck. That’s the combination, they say, that makes someone a successful entrepreneur.

How do you do this? According to co-author Anthony K. Tjan, you do it by focusing on your inner passion, your skills, your courage and your mindset.

4. Hire the right people

In an article for the Harvard Business Review, Dan Bricklin, the creator of VisiCalc and founder of Trellix, talked about his life as an entrepreneur. Among his insights, he stressed the importance of hiring people to help you manage the increased demands that go along with growth:

“If these aren’t your talents, you may need others to step in, for instance, to swim in the details of running the operation, to build strategic partnerships, to set financial priorities or to make the trains run on time.”

Are you surrounded by the right people? Use your position as a team leader or project manager to make sure everyone has the right role.

Cultivate Opportunities To Enhance Your Entrepreneurial Side

It’s important to develop your entrepreneurial skills, even if you never plan to start your own business. Look around for opportunities to innovate, lead and inspire your team. Cultivate the skills you need to be more productive every day.

Are you ready to fire up the high-productivity entrepreneur inside you? Contact the Leonard Productivity Intelligence Institute. We can help you develop the skills you need to power your productivity.