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Ideas for Leaders #011

Three Competencies Every Entrepreneur Should Develop

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Key Concept

Is there such a thing as a ‘natural-born entrepreneur’? According to this Idea there is not. Specific techniques and habits must be practiced and developed by all would-be entrepreneurs. And as well as business competencies, entrepreneurs need interpersonal and self-leadership skills too; however, these are often overlooked. Read on for advice on how to build and put these skills into practice.

Idea Summary

Are entrepreneurs born or made? Commonly, characteristics such as risk seeking, assertiveness and vision are considered typical of a successful entrepreneur. But these are innate predispositions or aspects of temperament; by using them as yardstick, it is wrongly concluded that only certain types of people make good entrepreneurs or are capable of worthwhile innovations. Instead, this Idea proposes that ‘entrepreneurial behaviour’ can be learned and developed.

The question is not who entrepreneurs are, but what they do, and more important than business skills can be other competencies that provide a foundation for those business skills.

The research behind this Idea is based on empirical studies of hundreds of entrepreneurs, which revealed that entrepreneurial behaviour is the result of a combination of:

  • strong motivation to achieve something; and
  • the capabilities to achieve it.

Furthermore, there are three levels of competencies, which all entrepreneurs need:

  1. Personal competencies: creativity, determination, integrity, tenacity, emotional balance and self-criticism.
  2. Interpersonal competencies: communication, engagement/charisma, delegation, respect.
  3. Business competencies: business vision, resource management, networking, negotiating skills.

Previous research has also highlighted other competencies that make up the ‘ingredients’ of a successful entrepreneur, including initiative, ambition and even luck.

Business Application

Though the key take away from this Idea is that entrepreneurship can be learnt by anyone, it’s not something that can simply learn in a classroom.  Even once key business knowledge has been acquired, the entrepreneur still has to learn how to use it in practice - something that can only be done through practice. In this respect, ‘leaning by doing’ is useful. Other tips include the following:

  • Have a clear understanding of industry evolution, knowledge of the effects of globalization, techniques for developing markets, etc. Some training in an academic environment (e.g. business schools) may help with this, particularly where case methods/working groups are used to teach.
  • Practice developing your interpersonal competencies. Certain skills, such as communication, delegating and respecting others can only be acquired through practice and developing ‘habits of character’.
  • Habits of character may not strictly be related to business but are to do with the kind of person the entrepreneur is and what he/she does. These are indispensable, alongside ‘technical habits’ and ‘skills’.
  • The only way to acquire the habits essential for entrepreneurs is by acting in a way consistent with them. Only then do these habits become the ‘driving force’ of successful entrepreneurial ventures.
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Idea conceived

  • 2009

Idea posted

  • January 2013

DOI number



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