What’s your most important attribute?
Most folks find this question tough to answer, which is how it should be. If you can single out your top trait without giving it any thought, you’re liable to be pigeonholed as a one-dimensional person. Fair or not, one-dimensional people don’t get much respect.
At the same time, it’s important to have a good grasp of your general strengths: the handful of personality traits of which any fair-minded person would say you possess more than your fair share. If you can’t identify a single characteristic that elevates you above your peers, you’re liable to be pigeonholed as, well, average. Fair or not, average people don’t get much respect. (At least, no more than average.)
Entrepreneurs need to be doubly conscious of their personal strengths and weaknesses. If you can’t sell yourself, you’re going to have a hard time selling your business idea (or your product, when it’s time). This is especially true for younger entrepreneurs, who have more to prove than their wizened counterparts.
In the rough-and-tumble startup world, some traits are simply more important than others. When you do certain things well, your backers, employees, and customers can forgive almost everything else. If you think you have what it takes, match your personal strengths against this list of six traits every young entrepreneur should have:
As the head honcho, the buck stops with you, and you need to know when to lay down the law. Contrary to popular belief, successful business owners do back down from controversial decisions — but not very often, and not without owning up to the mistake. To reduce the likelihood that you’ll need to back off once you’ve pulled the trigger, pair your decisive approach with open thoughtfulness — more “trigger-protective” than “trigger-happy.”
Setting goals is one thing. Doing whatever it takes to reach them is quite another.
Drive is hard to teach. To use an old cliche, you really have to want it more than everyone else.
- Long-Term Vision
Drive won’t get you far in the absence of long-term vision. The reverse is also true; without an innate drive to reach your goals, it’s hard to make a long-term vision stick. The value of both, together, is hard to argue with; a great vision inspires your team with what’s possible, and a relentless drive spurs them to achieve or get out of the way.
Successful business owners own their greatest successes — and their most humiliating failures. If you can’t admit when you’re at fault and prefer instead to pin the blame on a hapless subordinate, you might be in the wrong business.
This is a tough one for many Type-A entrepreneurs. It’s tempting to believe that you have all the answers, particularly as you notch key wins and find yourself at the helm of a business that seems to have boundless reserves of momentum.
If you don’t recognize that your wisdom has limits, and that you as a human being are fallible, you risk plowing headlong into a situation that you can’t control — and whose odds don’t favor you or your team. When you admit that you can’t do everything better than everyone else, you lift the burden of impossible expectations and remove a crucial bottleneck to growth — your own ego.
- The Ability to Say “No”
Oh, yes, as a business owner, you need to know when to say “no” and mean it. Knowing when to say “no” isn’t just about marking your territory and making it clear that you’re in charge. It’s about recognizing and avoiding low-value demands on your time. By saying “no” to something that isn’t likely to benefit you or your team, or at least isn’t likely to create as much value as the alternative, you’re leaving the door open for a more productive — and profitable — use of your time.
What’s your best entrepreneurial trait?
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