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If you’re not familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), it measures four pairs of personality preferences: Introversion (I) versus Extraversion (E); Sensing (S) versus Intuiting (I); Thinking (T) versus Feeling (F); and Judging (J) versus Perceiving (P). The 16 types are detailed on the official Myers-Briggs website, and you can take a free online test here.
If you think entrepreneurs are a different breed, you’re half right.
Myers-Briggs research reveals that ENTPs, ESTJs, ENTJs, INTJs, and ISTJs are more likely to have higher incomes and either be self-employed or manage more people than other personality types. Of course, these are far from the only permutations that can successfully run businesses.
For example, Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, Arianna Huffington, and Donald Trump all have different Myers-Briggs types than the ones above. And just because you’re predisposed to entrepreneurship doesn’t mean you’re prepared to start a company; the MBTI measures preferences, not ability.
Nevertheless, when at their best, these types embody entrepreneurial qualities that anyone who wants to own a business should emulate. Though their make-ups differ, these types have four overlapping strengths:
1. They’re curious.
ENTJs become bored by tasks they’ve mastered and relentlessly seek new skills. ISTJs investigate all the underlying evidence for their logic. ENTPs are tirelessly motivated by the pursuit of knowledge.
Gallup found that, out of hundreds of entrepreneurial behaviors, knowledge seeking was one of the ten most important. Stenner Investment Partners’ Thane Stenner sums that entrepreneurs are “‘intellectually curious.’ They love to learn. They look for insights, always a better way of doing things … an ‘edge.'”
This curiosity is called entrepreneurial alertness — which economist Israel Kirzner defines as both “the ability to notice without search opportunities that have hitherto been overlooked” and one’s “motivated propensity to formulate an image of the future.”
For example, entrepreneurs tend to agree with the statement, “When I notice an abandoned building, I think about what business potential it represents for me.”
But curiosity doesn’t just make people want to be entrepreneurs; it makes them good ones. According to Gallup, knowledge seekers increase their company’s chance of survival. Likewise, a 2015 Slovenian study revealed that entrepreneurial curiosity is positively correlated with company growth.
2. They’re creative.
Nicknamed “inventors,” ENTPs are the most resistant of all types to do things a certain way just because they were done that way before. ENTJs move whole projects forward with their action-oriented imagination. INTJs quietly envision an entirely new strategy.
Creativity occupies the very core of entrepreneurship. According to Martyn Driessen and Peter Zwart of the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, entrepreneurship is “The ability to create and build something from practically nothing … the knack for sensing an opportunity where others see chaos, contradiction, and confusion.” Not surprisingly, entrepreneurs are significantly more innovative than the general population.
A 2004 British study determined that creativity was the single most critical and prevalent trait associated with entrepreneurship. It’s so key, in fact, that in one study undergraduate students’ divergent thinking and creativity successfully predicted their entrepreneurial intentions.
3. They take responsibility.
ENTPs see possibilities everywhere and motivate entire communities to help paint their vision. ENTJs take on obstacles as a challenge. INTJs feel personally responsible for implementing their ideas.
Author and psychoanalyst Jonathan Alpert observes the same quality in entrepreneurs: While many feel powerless when times get tough, “the entrepreneur looks at the situation and knows he has some control over the outcome.”
Modern psychologists call this mindset “internal locus of control,” and it repeatedly makes entrepreneurial must-have lists. People with an internal locus of control believe that they’re in control of their destiny. Studies consistently and convincingly find positive correlations between internal locus of control, business success, and even career satisfaction.
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4. They’re decisive.
ISTJs logically decide what to do and work toward their goal steadily and without distraction. INTJs organize an action plan and carry it out strategically. ESTJs implement decisions quickly and systematically.
Though each type has a different method, they all make their own decisions and choose without remorse.
A 2004 U.S. study found that the more entrepreneurs can be convinced to take different directions, the less likely they are to focus and succeed. Successful entrepreneurs are therefore less likely to be cooperative, empathetic and concerned with maintaining harmonious relationships. They prioritize progress over feelings.
Entrepreneurs start, even if it means they might fail. Dozens of studies over the last three decades link risk-taking propensity with entrepreneurial achievement. Tony Tjan calls this trait guts: the ability to take action. An entrepreneur, he sums, must have “the guts to initiate, the guts to endure, and the guts to evolve as a new company changes.”
Myers-Briggs type isn’t everything.
Of course, these four traits alone can’t build a business. “Naturally, the entrepreneur’s diplomas, business knowledge, and craftsmanship play an important role,” write Driessen and Zwart. But there’s a still more important factor, they assert: the personality of the entrepreneur. “The success of a business is due to many factors, but the greatest determinant of a business’s success is the entrepreneur him/herself.”
We could resign ourselves based on the facts that our parents aren’t entrepreneurs, that we didn’t get an MBA, or that we’re not naturally creative — or we could take matters into our own hands.
In “Entrepreneurship and New Value Creation,” Alain Favolle writes, “Entrepreneurs are not born, they are developed.”
Willingness to try would reflect curiosity, creativity, responsibility and decisiveness.
Caroline Beaton is an award-winning writer, millennial expert and brand consultant covering the psychology of millennials at work. Visit her at carolinebeaton.com.