What is it that makes the Bill Gates, Richard Bransons and Arianna Huffingtons of the world so successful? Was Steve Jobs born with his creative genius and Beyoncé her propensity to work hard, or did they perhaps just learn to develop a heightened understanding of how the world works?
Psychologists and scholars argue that what these entrepreneurial giants have in common is not necessarily a predisposed inclination to achieve, but rather a similar set of personality traits and characteristics that can be adopted and harnessed by anybody at any stage of life.
To discover what these were we reached out to expert psychologist Elaine Slater who’s rounded up the top five traits that are likely to help you make it big in business. Now all we need is our million-dollar idea...
Strong sense of self
Sir Winston Churchill once said, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm” - a saying that holds true for those who want to be big in business. From proving naysayers wrong to facing severe competition, any entrepreneur will have to overcome a number of challenging obstacles before they succeed, making a resilience and determination in their own cause crucial.
“A grounded and secure sense of self is paramount for any successful entrepreneur and helps to create high levels of self-esteem,” says Elaine. “It also encourages a broad scope of self-awareness; cultivating the ability to identify one's own strengths and weaknesses and act upon them.
“Entrepreneurs are fuelled by an unshakeable sense of purpose,” says Elaine. “It is their infectious passion and steadfast belief that motivates and sustains them through the trials and tribulations of what they are doing. Motivated by their heart they are on a mission for the greater good.”
Indeed, according to research conducted by Tony Tjan and co-authors Richard Harrington and Tsun-Yan Hsieh, 65% of successful business founders were identified as being driven by “heart” rather than money or status.
A third of small businesses collapse within their first five years. Two-thirds fail within 10 - it takes a special level of confidence to go up against those odds. A confidence that was clearly demonstrated in a study carried out by Purdue University, which showed that 33% of 3000 entrepreneurs believed their business had 100% chance of success (not to mention the misplaced belief that they would also live longer than other people…)
“Overall an entrepreneur operates with tenacious optimism and absolute conviction. Their gut instinct, courage and diverse skill set manifest the confidence to initiate, endure and evolve,” says Elaine.
Just as it is important to be confident in your own ideas, a large part of being a successful entrepreneur is also knowing when something isn’t working and a change is due.
“Crucial to any new project is its founder’s capacity to adapt to the myriad changes and challenges,” says Elaine. “An entrepreneur embraces and embodies flexibility as their project shape shifts in a fluid and organic way.”
Whether they’re innovators set out to pioneer the latest craze, or are working to improve already existing ideas, the ability of entrepreneurs to have creative scope and imagine something that others haven't is key. “Entrepreneurs are innovators who see opportunity and possibility everywhere,” says Elaine. “Their limitless vision affords them the ability to see the future before it happens.”
For example, at age 27 Sarah Blakely invested her entire savings account of £5000 into her hosiery shaping business that she believed was the next big thing. Despite being rebuffed by many investors and manufacturers, her idea eventually took off leading to the creation of multimillion company ‘Spanx’ in 2000.