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Major themes that characterize entrepreneurs

What are the seven (7) major themes that characterize entrepreneurs? Which are most important and how can they be encouraged and developed?

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Question asked by hari_koirala

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angel profile image
Angel Paudel

The seven major themes that characterize entrepreneurs are commitment and determination, courage, leadership, opportunity obsession, tolerance of risk, ambiguity, and uncertainty, creativity, self-reliance, and adaptability, and motivation to excel (Spinelli & Adams, 2012). More on each of those are explained in the paragraphs to follow.

Commitment and determination is one of the seven major themes that characterize an entrepreneur. One must be always prepared to make personal sacrifices to get the result. If you want to start your own venture, you must be prepared and ready to leave behind all the comfort (be of job security, personal life and all the other). The person should also be fully committed to the mission of getting it all done. He/she must never shy away from experimenting and have a strong moral strength. The person must always do the right things (ethically). Not being afraid of failure and conflicts that can arise in the business are some of the traits under courage.

Without leadership, no one can be a successful entrepreneur. One doesn’t need to be a perfectionist but certainly have to have high standards and an ability to start things oneself (Chrysostome, 2010). He/she must be able to inspire that fire in others to join the vision and an ability to build a strong team chemistry. The person should also have the right amount of patience when it comes to things but also show urgency for things that matter. One must not be like a lone wolf and thus share the learning he/she has while also being open for what others in the team have to share and learn from it. Obsession for opportunity is another theme that characterizes entrepreneurs. Having knowledge about the customer desires and need while being market driven and not just sticking to what you feel is a skill not many have. The behavior under this also includes of being able to think of creating value and enhancement of the services or product you offer intensely.

Tolerance of risk, ambiguity, and uncertainty involves behaviors like the ability to take a risk in a calculated way, minimize risk and share them with the team or other collaborators. Other behavior like tolerating unknown outcomes and unstructured work plan is part of it as well. He/she also tolerate conflict and stress in a better way. Another theme would be creativity, self-reliance, and adaptability under which one doesn’t have any fear of failure but adapt to whatever situation that comes around while creatively solving the problems (Karp, 2006). Behaviors like learning things quickly, open-minded, and the ability to conceptualize are also part of it.

Motivation to excel is the last theme but of equal importance which characterizes entrepreneurs. Behaviors like strong orientation towards the high but realistic goals, drive to achieve all the milestones and grow, not care much of the status or power, and awareness of the strengths and weakness are part of it.

People may have their own take on which of the above seven themes best characterize the entrepreneur. But for me, I believe each of the seven has equal importance and are necessary to define an entrepreneur. One must have one or the other behavior of all the seven themes presented above. A person who is a calculated risk taker, has a strong moral strength, shows the ability to learn quickly and adapt in the hardest of situation decides to be an entrepreneur. The person lacks the passion - the commitment and sheer determination of doing something, which would obviously present itself as a hurdle and if unable to enhance those skills, the venture might crumble or even collapse.

Those skills are something which one with an entrepreneurial mindset or aspiration should realize and not something that someone else should encourage. However, at times a small push for someone you know or someone you admire or just a random person can ignite the desire in you to make a difference. These skills can be developed through practice, experimentation and by failing while attempting. It can also be enhanced through mentorship programs, talks with different people who have some knowledge about the domain, and looking at other related business cases. Having said that, it all depends on the person in question. If the person doesn’t have the desire, commitment and attitude to learning, no one can make him/her learn. So, it first starts with oneself and continues to secondary sources to show some path and finally back to oneself to make better sense of it and take it further.


Chrysostome, E. (2010). The success factors of necessity immigrant entrepreneurs: In search of a model. Thunderbird International Business Review , 52 (2), 137-152.

Karp, T. (2006). The inner entrepreneur: A constructivistic view of entrepreneurial reality construction. Journal Of Change Management , 6 (3), 291-294.

Spinelli, S., & Adams, R. (2012). New venture creation (9th ed., p. 38). New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.

ncitujjwal profile image

Anyone who runs a business is an entrepreneur. He/she has to organize, manage and assume risks of a business. As entrepreneur is defined as "person in effective control of commercial undertaken” one who undertakes a business or an enterprise” [Kerr, 2017]. Entrepreneurs have specific qualities they have specific strengths which they draw upon for their foray into business. If you want to start your own enterprise and make it a success, you will have to play different role at different time and at different stages of the growth of your enterprise. Given below are some important characteristic of entrepreneur. He/ She should have:
Quick Decision Making Ability: Ability to think on the feet and arrive at a decision quickly with appropriate logic is a must have quality for an entrepreneur [Yan, 2010]. Decision delayed is opportunity lost.
Risk taking capabilities and perseverance: He/ She must be high risk taker since in any start - up enterprise there is a high degree of risk involved due to lack of complete information and high financial commitment. Due to continuous problem from unknown sources he/ she has to be courage enough to standup to them face them head on and find solution to them.
High Energy Level: Entrepreneur must have never say die attitude. Entrepreneur is one man army. He/ she is the owner of the idea the vision and the enterprise. He/ She has to own responsibility to achieve success. He/ She cannot sleep at home and feel comfortable that there are people whom he employed would do work for him/her. He/ She needs to get into details of each and every activity that may affect his business. His/ Her success is directly proportional to the effort he/ she puts into a business activity.
Self-discipline/ Self Belief: As a leader he/she has to set example for others. If He/ She is not discipline then the team would be doubly irresponsible. Those traits are even more needed in crisis. He/ She must show courage and have self-beliefs to pull the whole team out of crisis.
Logic and Analytical bent of mind: Entrepreneur must think logically. He/ She must have a broader picture in his/her mind. He/ She must have the ability to see through the things and visualize what others cannot even think of good analytic skills go a long way in taking sound business decision.
Leadership: Leadership is an absolutely important characteristics of every entrepreneur because he/ she has to own responsibility to achieve success and he/ she has only authority to run his/her own business so that he/ she has to lead his/ her staff.
Commitment and determination: Entrepreneurship is a full time work. Entrepreneur will face a lot of challenges in their path. They always get a new challenges because Entrepreneur business has not a specific road map as business person. So they must need to identify their path and drive. If He/ she won’t be committed to achieve the goal and determination enough then he/ she may give up on the way.


Kerr, W. (2017). Personality Traits of Entreprenuers. Harvard Business Review .

Yan, J. (2010). The Impact of Entreprenuerial personality Traits on Perception of New Venture Opportunity. New England Journal of Entreprenuership .

shantamilan profile image

I personally feel that characteristics does not define an entrepreneur. Playing along that sentiment, there is no right way to confine what an entrepreneur should or should not be. We see many example of entrepreneurs that have led the way into something that no one else ever thought possible. Some examples could be Jack Ma the co-founder of Alibaba who was rejected from Harvard 10 times but is now someone who is studies as a case study and icon of an entrepreneur. Steve Jobs who revolutionized the way we understand computers, mobile, and music gadgets. Elon Musk the owner of Tesla Inc. who many CEOs of elite automobile companies thought would not succeed and was crazy for doing what he did in the electric motor business.

But somewhere among these people, them seem to have something in common. Among them, they all seem to be motivated with a clear vision, they were ready to risk it all, they embraced failure and rejection and grew from it, they challenged the status quo, they seem to not be swayed by emotions, they were persistent in their work and they did not just think but ventured out into the unknown. Important traits have been explained below.

Clear and Shared Vision

They all had a clear vision on what they want to accomplish and why. They seem to be driven by this vision no matter what. These visions are shared in nature as well. People are so inspired with these vision that they make it their own vision. Staffs at Apple or Tesla feel a part of something revolutionary and great. Steve Jobs had a vision to provide computer for everyone while Elon Musk wanted to revolutionize electric vehicles and even space exploration all of which were great undertakings.

Risk it all

Reading about these people, there are always incidents that makes you feel that they are little eccentric and for lack of a better word, plain crazy. In Elon’s own words, “It’s OK to have your eggs in one basket as long as you control what happens to that basket.” (Pressman, 2018)

Embrace failure and rejection

One sure way to fail in business in to be scared of failure and rejection. No one like it but an entrepreneur should understand that failure and rejection are just part of the bigger picture. "The Apple Lisa. Macintosh TV. The Apple III. The Powermac g4 cube. Steve Jobs was brilliant about understanding how technology vectors were evolving, yet even he screwed up royally, and often. The lesson that I take from these defunct products is that people will soon forget that you were wrong on a lot of smaller bets, so long as you nail big bets in a major way (in Jobs’s case, the iPod, iPhone, iPad, etc). (Sims, 2013)”

Be a leader - Challenge the status quo

People aspire to become leaders who are courageous to follow their vision. Thus many successful entrepreneurs seem to challenge the status quo which seems to inspire people to do the same. "People want to be led-not managed, that is why the battle for mind share and talent, time and again, is being won by entrepreneurial leaders. (Spinelli, Jr. & Adams)” No one imagined that space exploration would bring profit or worth investing in but Elon Musk challenged the status quo. Similarly Steve Jobs developed Ipod which challenged the technology at the time. He even challenged IBM which was at the time one of the most powerful and leading computer manufacturer.


Pressman, M. (2018, January 12). ELON MUSK: RISK-TAKING AND IMAGINATION ARE KEYS TO SUCCESS AT TESLA AND SPACEX. Tesla News . Retrieved from evannex.com/blogs/news/elon-musk-r...

Sims, P. (2013, January 21). Five of Steve Jobs’s Biggest Mistakes. Harverd Business Review .

Spinelli, Jr., S., & Adams, R. (n.d.). New Venture Creation . New York City: McGraw-Hill Irwin.

dipadhungana profile image

A lot of people aspire to be entrepreneurs. However, the recent research by Failory (2018) reveals that 90% of the startups fail. It is because not everyone can handle the sacrifices, total immersion and heavy workload behind glamorized world of entrepreneurship. The common themes shared by successful entrepreneurs that describe their attitudes and ways towards thinking as acting as given by Spinelli and Adams are:

Commitment and Determination

Entrepreneurs live under huge, constant pressures. A venture demands lot of time, effort and loyalty as well as personal sacrifice from the entrepreneurs to make it survive, sustain and grow. So, they should be disciplined, able to commit quickly, tenacious and decisive.


Stepping up in the entrepreneurship journey is a courageous act. So, entrepreneurs need to be fearless experimenters, followers of moral principles, ready to accept conflicts and failures and face the risks, uncertainties and undesirable outcomes that may come in their way.


Entrepreneurs start new ventures based on their ideas. But they cannot do everything on their own so they need to have a team and lead it effectively to make their ideas work. So it is important for them to possess the leadership traits like team building, practicing fairness, sharing responsibilities and acknowledging the experience, knowledge and effort of team members. They should be capable of inspiring others to move towards the shared vision.

Opportunity Obsession

In order to be successful, the entrepreneurs need to constantly monitor the changes in market to identify opportunities provided by changing patterns and capitalize on those changes. They need to be obsessed with value creation and enhancement to develop strategies, practices and habits that help to tackle the market-based problems and capture available opportunities.

Tolerance of Risk, Ambiguity and Uncertainty

It is not guaranteed that the entrepreneurs will get the desired outcomes and results from their venture. So they need to be prepared for tolerating the risks, ambiguity and risks associated with the project. They should be able to manage paradoxes and contradictions, tolerate uncertainty and lack of structure, handle stress and conflict, resolve problems and integrate solutions.

Creativity, Self-reliance and Adaptability

Innovation and ability to adapt changes are important to sustain in the ever changing business situation. The entrepreneurs should be non-conventional, open-minded, creative thinker, quick learner, change adapter, challenger of status quo and willing to learn from failure in order to succeed.

Motivation to Excel

Successful entrepreneurs are motivated intrinsically to compete and excel. They are aware of their strengths and weaknesses along with that of their competitors and create high but realistic and attainable goals based on that. They push themselves constantly to achieve that goals.

In my opinion, all of these are equally important. Absence of any one of these attributes may result in the failure of an enterprise. For example, if an entrepreneur is highly motivated, courageous, creative, committed and determined but is not prepared for handling the unpredictable circumstances and adjusting with the changes in business environment, even a small change in the environment in which it operates will make the entrepreneur lose his/her focus as a result of which the enterprise may fail.

All these qualities can be encouraged and developed over time. Consulting with the people who are successful in similar domain, mentorship and apprenticeship, analyzing the past experiences, being aware of personal and company’s strengths and weaknesses, brainstorming for additional insights, studying the processes of other companies of similar nature anf constantly updating oneself are the ways to develop these attributes. In addition, the attitude of learning continuously and taking everything that comes on the way with open mind can also be helpful in this.


Failory. (2018). The Ultimate Startup Failure Rate Infographic . Retrieved from failory.com/blog/startup-failure-rate 5

Spinelli, S., & Adams, R. J. (n.d.). New Venture Creation: Entrepreneurship for the 21st Century (Nineth ed.). Irwin: McGraw Hill Education.