3 Key Traits of An Entrepreneur
September 28, 2017

Every time I speak, someone asks me a variety of this question: “How can I tell if someone is an entrepreneur?”

Obviously, the proof is in the pudding. If they have successfully launched a non-profit or for-profit, planted a church or started a childcare center, from scratch, and it’s sustainable, you can pretty much say they have the goods.

But in our work with churches looking to start new community-focused ministries and in our work with denominational leaders longing to launch wide-scale multiplication movements, the goal is to find new leaders who can be invited into the game. Especially those who are on the sidelines, possibly not even aware of their entrepreneurial leaning.

In all of our work, the core issue is always, “Who? Who are the entrepreneurial leaders to lead the charge?” To this day, money has never been the issue. Need has never been the issue.

The fundamental pain point has routinely been “Who? Who will go?”

Over my ministry I’ve worked with hundreds of church planters. We’ve eaten meals, smoked cigars, prayed, played, and strategized. Based on knowing the individuals, most of my past answers listed qualities like risk-taking, outgoing, and cause-motivated. In our assessment process we always want to know of past startup success--the size and scope of what they’ve launched.

“Find out if you or someone you know is an entrepreneur.”

We employ a robust on-line psychometric tool that evaluates one’s love for certain behaviors, knowing that if you love doing what it takes to launch a startup, no one will have to motivate you. It’s why “cause-motivated” is important to us.

Distilling the list into a memorable format was somewhat elusive, however. Where to start? What to combine? Just recently, however, I ran across a study posted in Harvard Business Review. The findings rang true, especially as I looked back over the individuals we’ve worked with over the years.

In the research, Timothy Butler compared the psychological-testing results of more than 4,000 successful entrepreneurial leaders with the same results of 1,800 managers and self-proclaimed “not-entrepreneurs”.

Butler then distilled those results into three key traits. As I’ve sat with his conclusions, and tried them on with other entrepreneurial leaders I know, I tend to agree with his findings.

Trait #1: The ability to thrive in uncertainty.

While risk taking and whirlwind creating are labels often associated with entrepreneurs, the more fundamental issue is that change, chaos, and the unknown energize entrepreneurial leaders. They rarely simply jump off the cliff. They are, however, excited about figuring out how to jump off the cliff without dying.

They live for the solution, laser-focused in the midst of the noise, able to create a bubble of reality in which they thrive. Rather than despair, the unknown pulls them forward.

Trait #2: A passionate desire to author and own projects.

You might call her a control freak, and by most definitions she probably is. But this trait speaks also to the willingness to be responsible for the outcome. She owns the startup emotionally and spiritually, often bearing the marks of an artist creating a masterpiece.

She thinks systemically and thus sees how the all of the pieces fit together, must fit together.  She plays the part of builder and director, passionate about the quality and success of her creation.

Trait #3: A unique skill at persuasion.

Evangelist. Sales person. Missionary. He is gifted with words and convincing people to believe, follow, and contribute. Whether it is charisma or attraction, at the end of the day people nod their heads, open their wallets, and sign up. Something about his presentation and plan makes sense, grabs the heart, and invites me in--as a partner, a donor or a client.

This trait forms the basis of the “create from scratch” ability of the entrepreneur. Without the ability to convince others, the entrepreneurial leader knows he is simply going for a walk alone.

When looking for those entrepreneurial leaders in your midst, try looking through the lenses of this three-fold question:  

What control-freak person do I know that gets energized and excited by the unknown and is incredibly gifted at enlisting people to join them?

When you find that person? Chances are she’s the one you want.

“Find out if the person you’ve found to start a community-focused effort has the marks of a starter.” 
by Bill Woolsey


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