There are a lot of people these days claiming the title of “Entrepreneur”.

They get fed up with the big corporate system, or they think they can do it better, so they begin dreaming big dreams, do a little research online, create a plan on paper (or in their head), and start their own thing. Especially when there is a low barrier to entry in a specific industry, the lure of attraction is strong.

Problem is… there is a big difference between being just a business owner and being a successful entrepreneurial leader.

It’s a certain skill set for sure, but more importantly it’s a personality set.

During my 10+ years in business consulting, working for everything from Fortune 100 companies to mom and pop organizations in all different industries, I have seen the gamut of business owners and CEO’s. Ones I look up to and aspire to emulate, and then ones that I think never should be in charge of anything, let alone anyone.

The position of leading people and running a company is a powerful one that is not to be taken lightly.

I once heard that “who we listen to is who we become.” People – your customers and team members – look to you to set the direction, to define success, to keep their paycheck coming, to model behavior.

Sadly, I have watched really good people choose to follow a bad mentor and now they are becoming like that mentor – the Kool Aid of arrogance and getting ahead tastes so good that they begin to adopt habits and ways of relating that aren’t at all who they once were.

Just because someone is in a position of authority definitely does always not mean they deserve it.

Webster defines an entrepreneur as, “A person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.”  This definition is good, but I’d suggest we take it a step further. If you’re a jerk while living out this definition, you may experience some success but eventually what you’ve built will start to crumble. Your true colors will be found out. This is a fact that has been proven over and over throughout history.

So, how do you know if you’re in the right spot and should be doing what you’re doing?  How do you know if you’re a successful entrepreneurial leader?

Let’s break down the characteristics of a successful entrepreneur based on our experience, and see how you stack up. These are in no particular order. Download the scoring template at the bottom of this article to test your current ability as a successful entrepreneurial leader.

  1. You are not afraid to take risks. You run to what’s hard because you understand it requires resistance for you to truly grow. You’re just like anyone else and are fearful of things outside your comfort zone, but you do them because you know it makes you better.
  2. You pursue an understanding of things. You may not be a marketing genius, or a financial whiz, or a “business person”, but you connect with people who are so you can constantly be learning. You know what you don’t know, or aren’t good at, and you aren’t afraid to ask questions and seek help.
  3. You understand the difference between “cost” and “investment”. People are not “costs” in your business. Hiring a mentor is not a “cost” to the bottom line. Engaging with a professional website design company is not just an expense. You understand that these things are investments into the success of your business. You often have to sacrifice and take one step back to move two steps forward, and you are ok with that because you see the bigger picture of what you’re building.
  4. You are constantly learning. You don’t have to be told to read and learn. It’s an innate part of who you are. Several podcasts are subscribed to. Your bookshelf is full. Articles are saved when shared. You read books, like Profit First and The E-Myth Revisited, to jumpstart your thinking and expand the tool kit of your mind. Watching TV is often replaced with challenging your mind. Your quest for knowledge often feels insatiable.
  5. You are a GSD kind of person. One of my favorite phrases because it describes a certain type of person. You Get Sh#t Done. You know you can be counted on to deliver. You can accomplish in one hour the amount of work someone else does in an entire morning.
  6. You do what you say you’re going to do. You say you’re going to call, you call. You say you’re going to respond to emails in 24 hours or less, you respond. You say your mission is to help people first before caring about revenue, you do whatever it takes to invest in someone else’s success. You never go back on your word because you know that people with integrity just don’t do that.
  7. You seek impact success over financial success. Your focus is not on the money. Your focus is on making an impact, knowing that if you do (combined with the other things on this list), the money will follow. You are committed to making a difference in as many people’s lives as possible, not for your own fame and fortune, but because you love to see others succeed.
  8. You build a business based on love and respect. You are known as someone who is a true lover of people. You are genuinely respected by everyone in your circle and others in your industry. You deeply care about other people’s success and wouldn’t think of pushing another down to climb on their back to get more for your own self.
  9. You just need momentum. You don’t need everything done for you. You don’t expect others to do the work. You just need to be pointed in the right direction, given the right tools, and you’re off to the races. This is a big one because true successful entrepreneurial leaders are always creating and are intrinsically motivated, and they don’t expect others to do their work. 
  10. You are generous. You give things of value away freely. When someone is in need, you are there. You are intelligent and you want to share what you know with others. You are approachable and people want to be around you. And, you don’t need to tell others you give away free information or highlight what you’ve done. Other people naturally do that for you.
  11. You possess a strong ability to focus. You can turn off distractions. You may not always be the most organized but you know how to get organized, and you organize often. You can prioritize the things that are most urgent. And then you can focus to check them off the list, one by one.
  12. You fight off discouragement. You know that being a successful entrepreneurial leader comes with many challenges and much discouragement. You allow yourself to be real and feel the growing pains, but you don’t allow those to control you. You rise above and do your very best to maintain a positive attitude, knowing that this too shall pass.
  13. You are confidently humble. You know that deep down you are smart, capable, and talented, but you also know that many people contributed to your growth. You are quick to give credit where credit is due because you are ok with not always being the smartest person in the room. You are not arrogant. People like you and want to be more like you.  
  14. Who you are in public is who you are in private. The people closest to you are your biggest fans. They don’t think negative thoughts (the truth) about you when someone else compliments you. They believe in and celebrate that compliment. You treat them with kindness and respect and encourage them to pursue their dreams. They know you’re not perfect, but they adore you anyway.
  15. You surround yourself with good people. You know that people become like who they spend time with. Spend time with kind, generous, smart, motivated people, and you will find yourself kinder, more generous, smarter and more motivated. Spend time with arrogant, self-serving people, and you will begin to fight for you first and your piece of the pie. Take inventory of who you’ve surrounded yourself with – your friends, your team, your mentor. And, see who you’re becoming.

Steve Jobs said it best… Be so good the world can’t ignore you.

Enter your name and email below to get free access to a test that will give you an honest assessment of yourself to assess whether you’re just a business owner or if you’re a successful entrepreneurial leader. Might even be a good idea to let a few of those close to you score you.

For those things you score low on, reach out and allow others to help you. Find a business coach (we can recommend some incredible ones!). Another option is we’ll be launching an online video course on Successful Entrepreneurial Leadership in the next month or two in Hub to add to the already great resources in there!

You only live once, work hard to be the very best version of yourself you that you can possibly be… for you. And all of us.

This world needs more successful entrepreneurial leaders who positively impact others.