Entrepreneurship is more about the journey than the destination. It takes a certain kind of spirit to succeed in the startup world, and while many different types of people make good founders, the best ones tend to share a few key qualities.
There’s no such thing as the “right” personality type to start and run a business, but the entrepreneurial spirit is real. Those who don’t come by those beneficial traits naturally can still cultivate them — they just have to work a little harder than the rest. Fortunately, entrepreneurs aren’t strangers to hard work.
That doesn’t mean introverts have to transform into extroverts to schmooze their way to the top. According to a recent survey by Creditloan.com on personality and working at a side hustle, extroverts are more likely to work more hours, but they don’t earn more.
“Our survey revealed people with an ISTP personality type (introvert, sensing, thinking and perceiving) earned the most, with a median income of $500 after only 45 hours of work each month,” said Dan Wesley at Creditloan.com. “Following ISTPs, ESTJs ($450) ENTPs ($415) and INFPs ($410) earned the most, although the extroverted types put a median of 52 to 55 hours into their side gig each month.”
If side hustles are an entrée to entrepreneurship — and they often are — this study suggests that being the stereotypically gregarious, extroverted business leader isn’t necessarily the only (or even the best) path to success.
The Myers-Briggs types Wesley mentions are commonly known as the top earners, but founders don’t have to neatly fit into psychological boxes to succeed. These types reveal more about the personal preferences of the subjects than their capabilities at work. Numerous examples, from Steve Jobs to Oprah Winfrey, give founders of all personality types hope that they, too, can lead their companies to lasting success.
That said, the founders who understand their personalities and adjust their business practices accordingly tend to do better than those who charge in blindly. Follow these tips to run a business that prospers — no matter what your Myers-Briggs results say.
1. Match your business offering to your personality type.
Free-flowing artistic types likely won’t do well at the helm of no-nonsense accounting firms. Similarly, fastidious fact checkers might be overwhelmed in environments where freedom and flexible deadlines are key. Be aware of business opportunities that might be incompatible with your personality type.
According to a 2010 study by researchers from the University of Groningen, the best entrepreneurs tend to be more creative than most. They know how to create something from nothing and see opportunities where others do not. That creativity doesn’t have to be an innate characteristic, though. With practice, entrepreneurs of all personality types and business preferences can learn how to spot chances to innovate.
2. Identify blind spots in leadership, then improve them.
Leadership may come easier to some personality types than others, but that doesn’t mean everyone else is locked out of the club.
“Leading people is about mobilizing and optimizing the talent and skills of yourself and others in order to achieve results,” said Katrin Schwabe of professional services firm BTS. “And it is about the willingness to hold up the mirror and be very self-aware about your strengths and limitations — and maintaining the capacity to grow and develop.”
Some people feel personally responsible for the success or failure of their ideas, while others are happy to hand off assignments and assume everything will work out. Find the balance by identifying your personal tendencies, both positive and negative, then take precautions to ensure those blind spots don’t stand in the way of progress.
3. Embrace curiosity.
According to Gallup, knowledge seeking is one of the 10 most important traits entrepreneurs can have. Even if complacency comes naturally to your personality type, fight that instinct and make it a point to learn something new as often as possible.
Imagine a company with a founder who doesn’t seek knowledge. When an industry shift changes how that company does business, it will be less agile, hampering its efforts to pivot to meet new demands compared to a company headed by someone with a high level of intellectual curiosity. Learn to love learning. Constantly evaluate the state of your business and ask, “How could these processes be improved?”
4. Stick to strong convictions, but stay flexible in their execution.
Some people get off track at the drop of a hat. Others remain steadfast on the path, even if new circumstances merit reconsideration of the journey. Identify which principles are the most important to your business, then leave room for flexibility in other matters. If you won’t be happy with who you’ve become — or what your business has become — then your definition of “success” hasn’t served you well at all.
Successful entrepreneurs know how to balance tenacity with openness to new ideas. Stick to the road, but when someone proposes a new idea (especially a respected colleague or mentor), consider whether a shift in direction would benefit the company.
The University of Groningen study also found that entrepreneurs who take risks tend to succeed more often than those who don’t. Consider all the information, then strike out on a path — don’t let naysayers stand between you and your goals.
Any personality type can become an entrepreneur, but only those willing to put in the work and acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses can become successful ones. Follow these tips to account for your blind spots and set a personal course for success.
Serenity Gibbons is the local lead for NAACP in Northern California with a mission is to ensure economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination.