Are entrepreneurial characteristics inherited or learned?


For years, researchers have debated over whether the entrepreneurial personality is an innate or learned behavior. Economists, sociologists, and psychologists have all weighed in on the issue in hopes of ascertaining whether successful startup businessmen and women can be made, or whether they are simply born with the skills to create innovative and thriving companies.

However, as scientists have found with so many other aspects of human personalities, the answer in the great debate between nature and nurture often lies somewhere in the middle. Although some entrepreneurial traits are inborn and some people have the predisposition to become entrepreneurs, other traits can be taught and even those without the initial inclination toward business success can flourish with dedication, practice and hard work.


The entrepreneurial personality

Whether entrepreneurial characteristics are inherited or learned, most experts agree that those with the entrepreneurial personality are:

  • Independent. Entrepreneurs enjoy working on their own and being in charge of their own projects. They have difficulty working for others or executing others’ ideas without adding their individual spin. They would rather work for themselves and chance failure than work for a regular paycheck.
  • Willing to take calculated risks. While most people enjoy the safety and comfort that comes with regular work and a patterned lifestyle, entrepreneurs are willing to put themselves on the line for their ideas. They also understand how to calculate these risks and protect what they have worked to create.
  • Creative. Entrepreneurs are constantly looking at the world in a new light and considering how a product or service could be improved. They often take fresh angles on old problems or harness new technology for novel uses.
  • Hard to satisfy. Entrepreneurs are not satisfied with moderate success. They often think many steps ahead and quickly invest profits into new projects, businesses, marketing campaigns and ideas. Even when business is going well, they are constantly striving to improve it.
  • Energetic, driven and passionate. Even if you have all of the other traits of an entrepreneur, it is almost impossible to succeed through the long hours and hard work needed to create a successful business without energy, drive, and passion. These traits help businesses get off the ground and also inspire employees.
  • Self-confident. In business, being hesitant or unsure can quickly lead to failure. The ability to convince others to believe in your product is sometimes as simple as believing in your product. If you think you can succeed, you improve your chances of success significantly.
  • Able to learn as they go. You often hear of the entrepreneur who never attended high school or dropped out of college. However, this does not mean that they are not educated or that they cannot learn. It simply means that they often have the ability to learn through experience and extract lessons from real-life situations and ventures.


Honing skills and traits

While some of the above traits, such as a passion for what you do, have large intrinsic and innate aspects that we can’t altogether change, many of the facets of the entrepreneurial personality can be practiced, improved upon, and learned.

For example, even though some might be born with the gift of being creative without a concerted effort, all of us can learn the skills creative people take when developing ideas and detailing the particulars of a new venture.

The ability to learn as you go is another skill that, while it can be a natural ability, can also be perfected by those born without the inclination. Step back from a recent business transaction or plan. How could it have been executed more smoothly? How did the other person act, and what aspects of their business could be remodeled and molded to help your own enterprise? How could you have saved time and money?

Another step that you can take toward becoming a more successful entrepreneur is to become comfortable with aspects of the entrepreneurial personality that may seem uncomfortable, difficult or awkward to you. Perhaps you want to act independently and take more calculated risks, but find that you are stopped by your fears or by other conflicting personality traits that you might have. In this case, you need to ease yourself into the idea of becoming more independent by taking small steps in that direction and by completing small tasks that familiarize yourself with these thoughts and actions.

In the end, the key to becoming a successful entrepreneur may lie in the ability to self-reflect and learn to emulate those successful entrepreneurs that have come before us.


Michelle Simms is a personal and professional development coach who works with entrepreneurs. Her Web site is


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