While this idea certainly feeds into leadership course pitches, or else into the egos of businessmen keen to paint themselves as predetermined to succeed and otherwise raise their own profile, it doesn’t seem to tally with the breadth of personality engaged in real-world entrepreneurial activities. It is a stereotype.
Entrepreneurs, like everyone, come in all shapes and characters. It is blinkering to assume they are or should all be alike or share some set of qualities. Being a successful entrepreneur is about problem solving, tenacity and intelligence. Anyone who says otherwise is most likely selling something.
Take for instance the idea that all entrepreneurs are risk takers. In the real world some are, some aren’t. Not all entrepreneurs have to be shameless self-promoters. Not all are gung-ho optimists or carnivorous networkers. Behaving in a particular outward way, for instance giggling the way that Branson giggles, isn’t the same as acting in the way they do or making the same decisions they might. It is a very NLP-based way of thinking, to imagine that by mimicking someone’s outward appearance, you can become like them. It is a quite American way of thinking.
There is a creeping Americanisation, a rather un-English brashness about the very notion of entrepreneurship. More, about even the very use of the word in our language. As discussed by the (English) writer Thomas McGrath recently on (American site) Dangerous Minds:
“The phrase ‘entrepreneurial spirit’, which can hardly even be enunciated in an English accent (or shouldn’t be – just as Americans do well to steer clear of certain British swear words) and furthermore conjures – to a Brit – profoundly mundane images of people opening pet shops and pizzerias, clearly possesses some strange sacred quality to various right-wingers across the pond.”
Entrepreneurs come as they are. Successful people have not all drunk from the same magical cup. That they are all the same, that their success is due to being of a particular personality type is a dangerous myth that will only slow you down.