Entrepreneurs

10 Personality Traits of Legendary Entrepreneurs

Success begins by cultivating the mindset required to take risks and lead teams.
10 Personality Traits of Legendary Entrepreneurs
Image credit: Michael L Abramson | Getty Images
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Author of A Paperboy's Fable: The 11 Principles of Success
6 min read
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The most successful people benefit from a combination of luck and personal prowess. Luck in the sense that timing is often a factor when ideas catch fire, and personal prowess in the sense that successful people are capable of capitalizing on lucky timing.

If you’re hoping to increase your personal or professional success, you can cultivate personality traits that will optimize your chances. Let’s take a look at 10 personality traits that have enabled magnates like Steve Jobs, Sheryl Sandberg and Jack Ma to achieve remarkable things.

1. Open-minded

In 1983, Apple released Lisa. It was one of the first computers to use a bitmapped graphical interface and mouse. In short, the device was a revolution that put Apple on the map as a company that was developing cutting-edge personal computers.

As Walter Isaacson noted in his biography Steve Jobs, Jobs led a team hoping to rethink what a personal computer could be. Rather than develop a device that could contend with market leaders of the day, Jobs and his team approached the task of developing a new personal computer with an open mind.

Refusing to simply stick with the status quo, they pushed boundaries and designed a product built to solve a pesky problem (the usability of personal computers).

Related: A Job Application Steve Jobs Handwrote in 1973 Is Full of Errors and Will Be Up for Auction

2. Focused

When Jeff Bezos founded Amazon, he knew that his company would need to focus on a specific problem in order for his small business to make any headway. As a result, he originally focused his team on becoming the world’s largest online bookseller.

The company worked on innovations that would improve customer experience as it related to ecommerce bookselling. During a 1999 interview with 60 Minutes, Bezos was asked about his desk. Though at the time Bezos was already a billionaire, the desk was made of an office door and taped-together 4x4s. Bezos replied that the desk was “a symbol to spend money on things that matter to customers.”

Since the early days of Amazon, Bezos has focused himself and his company on customer satisfaction. As a result, Amazon has been able to properly prioritize projects while avoiding initiatives that distract from the company mission.

Related: Jeff Bezos: 9 Remarkable Choices That Shaped the Richest Man in the World 

3. Influential

Sheryl Sandberg is a great leader; so much so, in fact, that early in her career she didn’t recognize how influential she was. During a company presentation she announced that the organization should stop using PowerPoint during meetings. People on her team took her at her word, and didn’t even use PowerPoint during client presentations (a move that caused some confusion among clients).

Sandberg was shocked to learn what had happened, and took steps to loosen restrictions on what tools Facebook employees could use during presentations. This is just one example of the type of influence Sandberg has earned as a respected professional and inspirational leader.

Related: 21 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Sheryl Sandberg

4. Willful

Jack Ma is worth roughly $35 billion, and yet, before founding Alibaba, he was rejected for 30 jobs. Ma was rejected for a job at KFC, he was rejected by the Chinese police academy and he was rejected 10 times by Harvard University.

Being rejected frequently taught Ma determination. As a result of Ma’s learned willfulness, he was able to successfully launch Alibaba in 1999. Roughly 20 years later, the company is worth at least $460 billion.

Related: 22 Crazy Things We've Learned About Alibaba Billionaire Jack Ma

5. Modest

Warren Buffett purchased a modest house in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1958. Today he is one of the wealthiest people on earth, with nearly $90 billion in assets. However, he still lives in the same house, which is now worth one-hundredth of one percent of his total wealth.

That is one sign of how modest Buffet truly is. It is a characteristic that has helped him to earn respect among a wide variety of business people, including Bill Gates.

Related: 25 Surprising Facts About Warren Buffett

6. Self-reflective

Rick Rubin is a legendary music producer, responsible for helping musicians like Jay-Z and Johnny Cash to find their musical voice. He has achieved immense professional success, and he credits his self-reflective streak as the main driver behind his ability to discover talented artists.

For years Rubin has maintained a daily meditation practice, and he has recently incorporated cold baths and a sauna treatment to help him further center himself. By practicing a variety of techniques to remain calm and focused, Rubin has been able to discover talented artists whom other producers might have overlooked.

Related: I Tried This Oprah Meditation Hack Every Day for Two Weeks. Here Are My 5 Takeaways.

7. Process-oriented

Running a successful business requires process-oriented thinkers. People who simply rely on instinct and creativity may find it difficult to work together on a regular basis. In his book High Output Management, the former CEO of Intel, Andrew Grove, wrote about the importance of operating as a process-oriented leader.

While successful professionals are certainly adaptable and creative, they also know how to implement ideas by designing processes that empower subordinates to work efficiently.

Related: The 5 People You Need in Your Startup

8. Charismatic

Charisma is a necessary element for effectively motivating employees to do their best work. However, while charisma is an important component of leadership, it doesn’t necessarily require extroversion.

Inspirational leaders can be introverts too. Having charisma means you have storytelling ability, conviction and empathy. If you are able to package those skills, you’ll be well on your way to leading a team to get behind your mission.

Related: Introverts: 4 Ways to Be Yourself and Be a Charismatic Leader

9. Empathetic

Speaking of empathy, good leaders (and thus successful people) care about the people around them. Take the founder and executive chairman of Starbucks, Howard Schultz. Schultz insisted that employees should be offered generous benefits, and as a result the organization provides a wide range of benefits to all employees who work more than 20 hours per week.

From partial-match 401k plans to tuition reimbursement, Starbucks takes an empathetic approach to employee benefits, which stems from the compassion of the company’s leadership.

Related: How Starbucks CEO Transformed a Small Coffee Bean Store Into a Massively Successful Worldwide Brand

10. Daring

Steve Jobs dropped out of college to build computers in his parents’ garage. Jeff Bezos left a lucrative career in finance to open an ecommerce store. Mark Zuckerberg spent hours building Facebook instead of studying for tests while attending Harvard. Howard Schultz quit his job to open a coffee shop after being inspired by Italy’s coffee culture while traveling for business.

Successful people have a daring streak in them. They are comfortable embracing risk if they feel they are doing it for the right reasons.

Success starts with the proper mindset. If you work to cultivate the 10 personality traits outlined in this article, you’ll be well on your way to becoming your most successful self.

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