Hi everyone, hope you're feeling great!
So, I have created the below list from research, and also from my personal opinion. It is obviously not exhaustive, I would love to hear your thoughts about what you think should be added to (or even deleted from!) the list.
The first five characteristics are not inclusive to social entrepreneurs, it’s more general traits shared among most of the successful people I’ve met.
1. They are passionate and ready to work hard.
Seems obvious, but working on your own startup / project requires a lot of work. Only true passion can push an individual to commit many hours of his/her day (and night!) to work on something.
2. They are prepared and willing to take risks.
Uncertainty and entrepreneurship come hands in hands. Be careful, though - not all risk-takers are great entrepreneurs. Taking a risk involving your career, business, life, requires a lot of planning and preparation. In other words, successful entrepreneurs do not jump directly in the lake, they check first if the water isn’t freezing.
3. They keep an open mind, no matter what.
Often, this characteristic is put aside as “less important”. It is nevertheless a crucial component of what makes a great entrepreneur; his/her lack of ego. Working with entrepreneurs, I have witnessed that many people were stuck with a bad product/idea because they did not accept the opinion of others. A successful entrepreneur is willing to hear criticisms and ready to give up on a bad idea, even if it is his/her own.
4. They are ambitious but not impatient.
You cannot start your web company and hope for it to become the new Facebook in a fortnight! Entrepreneurs know that. Their long-term vision is highly ambitious -as it should be-, but they are aware of the long years of work ahead of them to achieve their goals. This one is especially true for social entrepreneurs; you can have a long-term ambition of ending poverty, or providing education to every child around the world, however, you have to be okay with the small steps, as this is definitely not achievable in a week!
5. They have a great dislike for bureaucracy and slow processes.
This one is my personal favorite. We all have a personal example of a moment in our lives in which bureaucracy won. And we all wish that we’d have done something to change it, right? Well, entrepreneurs take the next step and chose to be different, disruptive. They do not accept pre-written rules - which is particularly important when talking about social entrepreneurship. I believe in entrepreneurial spirit as the concept that will challenge, and eventually defeat, the bureaucratic society in which we are living.
More particularly, social entrepreneurs can be defined with the below traits;
6. They have a strong set of moral values.
I have never met anyone more empathetic and thoughtful than the social entrepreneurs. Empathy has long been disregarded or considered a “weak” characteristic of personality in society, in which individuality matters most of all. Social entrepreneurs do not believe in individualistic approaches. They believe in compassion, sympathy, and thoughtfulness as the most important personality traits that one can have.
7. They have a desire to break conventional ideas and structures.
As said before regarding bureaucracy, social businesses have this particular characteristic of challenging the norm when facing a social problem. Social entrepreneurs define a cause that matters to them, look at the way the problem is being solved nowadays, what help comes from where (governments, companies, NPOs,...), and what radical, system-changing, innovative solution can be brought to the cause.
8. They are not scared of getting their hands dirty.
No matter the cause, a social entrepreneur is ready to give practical help. If it is social agriculture, he/she will not be scared to plant a thing or two. If it is education in a developing country, he/she will travel to witness the existing school environment in that particular country.
9. They focus on the social value first and foremost.
A social business has a primary objective of generating social impact. You can check my article on the definition of social entrepreneurship if you want to know more about social value creation and measurement!
10. Finally, and it is perhaps quite obvious, they have a positive vision of the future.
I don’t know about you, but as a millennial, my future sometimes seems dark and, frankly, quite scary. We see articles like that one, and we start thinking “damn… my parents had it better!” Gen Y might never be able to afford to buy a house, might never even get a stable job or income, and will probably become the first generation to be poorer than their parents.
Facing these facts, you can choose to fall into a pit of despair and hopelessness or, like social entrepreneurs, you can choose to dream a little. They are often referred to as optimistic, even idealistic individuals. I personally believe that social entrepreneurs with a clear (and positive!) vision of the future of their company and the cause they are working on, will be the most successful ones.
And perhaps it IS time to start believing in our future, don’t you think? ;-)
So, what do you think? Do you have other examples of must-have personality traits to thrive in social entrepreneurship? Can’t wait to hear your ideas!