When we think of successful entrepreneurs, a particular personality type often comes to mind -- determined, daring, charismatic. That image can cause those who do not at all resemble Sir Richard Branson to question whether they have what it takes to build a business.

Worrying that you might not have the personality to make it as an entrepreneur is understandable, but it's also problematic for a couple of reasons. First and most fundamentally, because science has conclusively shown that our personalities change radically over the course of our lives, and that believing your personality is fixed can hold you back.

And second, because the whole idea of a "correct" entrepreneurial personality is hogwash, according to a recent Hacker Noon post by veteran startup marketer John Eidson, who has worked with dozens of startup CEOs. Many of the personality traits that we think of as death for entrepreneurial ambitions are actually hidden strengths, he argues.

1. Fearful

We think of entrepreneurship as risky and uncertain, so we assume that startup leaders need to be fearless. But that's nonsense in Eidson's experience (and also, Elon Musk's --  he admits to feeling fear quite strongly). In fact, Eidson believes, fear can be an incredibly powerful driver of achievement.

"CEO's with a high degree of fear tend to have a higher degree of drive as the latter is often driven by the former," he writes. "The underlying fear of failure can be a tremendously beneficial asset." 

2. Naive

You need to know what you're doing to start a world-changing company, right? Actually no. Being clueless can work in your favor, Eidson and others insist. Given that the median age of startup founders with successful exits is a well seasoned 47, it would be foolish to argue that experience doesn't have benefits. But so does being naive and less battered by life.

"I'm not suggesting that CEO's should be completely wet behind the ears, but I am saying that low mileage can give you a longer lifespan," Eidson claims.

3. Insecure

If you're unsure yourself, how will you ever convince anyone else to follow you, you might think. But contrary to expectations, Eidson has seen more startups fail because of overconfident leaders than insecure ones.

"The overconfident CEO -- someone who I've met many times before -- is perhaps one of the most insidious dangers to any startup culture," he insists. On the other hand, in his marketing work Eidson has observed that "nervousness is an authentic trait. And so is insecurity. If there's anything customers want and expect today it's exactly that: authenticity." Your doubts can help you connect with people and sell your product.

Check out the complete post for Eidson's complete argument, but perhaps the most important point here isn't that you have to be insecure, naive, or fearful to make it as a founder. The larger lesson is that there is no single personality type for entrepreneurial success. Passion and execution matters a lot more than personal style, so don't handicap yourself before you get started by believing you're not "the entrepreneurial type."

Published on: Apr 18, 2018
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