What makes famous entrepreneurs successful in terms of personality type? Are Introverts or Extraverts more likely to be famous entrepreneurs? Is innovation or tradition more of an asset? Is creativity or leadership more essential? As you’ll see from this small selection, it can be all or any of these traits.
Any personality type could be included in a list of famous entrepreneurs. While Extaverts may be more charismatic, or more visible in the public eye, they don’t necessarily have the advantage over Introverts.
Introverts may have other qualities, such as the willingness to listen, a talent for understanding and motivating others, and the ability to devote themselves to long hours of reflection and solitary application.
What’s more important is to choose the right industry and business model for your personality type, and to surround yourself with colleagues who have strengths that are complementary to yours. And perhaps most importantly, it’s essential to choose something you love.
Traits of Many Famous Entrepreneurs
Regardless of their personality type, most famous entrepreneurs possess certain traits that help drive their desire and success. This article, fittingly from Entrepreneur, suggests 10 of them. These traits include:
- Willingness to take risks
- Desire to continue learning
- Ability to deal with, and learn from, failure
- Networking skills
- Self promotion skills
Now, let’s look at a few examples of famous entrepreneurs, each with a different Myers and Briggs personality type.
1. Thomas Edison -- ENTP
Fittingly, this type is known as the ‘visionary’ or inventor. Thomas Edison, known for inventing the phonograph, light bulb (arguably) and countless other innovations that are now part of our daily life, is one of the most famous and prolific visionaries of all time.
As the founder of the highly successful company, General Electric, or GE, he can also be considered an entrepreneur.
In fact, many of the traits that make a good inventor -- intelligence, ingenuity, curiosity, passion and dogged persistence -- also define many successful and famous entrepreneurs.
And what’s an entrepreneurial inventor with too many ideas and too little time to do? Open an “invention factory, of course.” Many entrepreneurs find a better, faster, or cheaper way of getting things made or done. And they play to their personal strengths.
So Edison, in true entrepreneurial fashion, found a way to get more of his inventions developed than he would have on his own by opening the first industrial research laboratory, later called the “invention factory”, in Menlo Park, New Jersey.
2. Bill Gates -- INTJ
Though many think of famous entrepreneurs as Extraverts, Introverts can make great entrepreneurs as well, because they can do sustained, solitary work in a field they’re passionate about. And technology, one of the main areas of recent entrepreneurial success stories, tends to attract and reward introversion.
As Gates has figured out, Introverts especially thrive as entrepreneurs when they surround themselves with Extraverts that can help them communicate their vision to the world. He is quoted as saying,
“If you’re clever you can learn to get the benefits of being an introvert, which might be, say, being willing to go off for a few days and think about a tough problem, read everything you can, push yourself very hard to think out on the edge of that area. Then, if you come up with something ... you better hire some extroverts ... and tap into both sets of skills in order to have a company that thrives both as in deep thinking and building teams and going out into the world to sell those ideas.”
The results would suggest that this approach works extremely well!
And when you think of Bill Gates, after Microsoft, the next thing that probably comes to mind is his large-scale charitable efforts. Giving back seems to be another trait that many famous entrepreneurs share.
3. Oprah Winfrey -- ENFJ
This type fits into the ‘teacher,” or “idealist organizer” category. They are good communicators, expressive with emotions, and empathetic. This famous talk show host is an especially effective example of the caring communicator.
She’s good at setting a path for herself and achieving it, and helping others meet their potential as well. Her judging abilities apparently helped her to make her “favorite things” showcase highly successful, to the point of helping to launch the careers of other authors and entrepreneurs.
According to Isabel Briggs Myers, "ENFJs are likely to have a gift of expression, but they may use it in speaking to audiences rather than in writing." Well, Winfrey has used her popular talk show and other media outlets as giant classrooms that enable her to spread her gift to millions.
Not only are passion, caring, authenticity, and a deep connection with humanity not a hindrance to success for an entrepreneur, but clearly in Oprah’s case they have helped make her both a household name, and a billionaire.
4. Henry Ford -- ESTJ
Ford didn't invent the automobile, but he streamlined how it was produced, by means of the modern assembly line. He also may have introduced the 8 hour workday, so each day could be divided into three shifts, making use of all 24 hours.
The assembly line may be the simplest form of a basic approach shared by many famous entrepreneurs: the ability to put the potential of other humans, machines, or both, to use to put their ideas into practice on a larger scale than they could do on their own.
Although ESTJ types, or Supervisors, are considered practical, rule-oriented traditionalists who like working within the rules and managing others accordingly, Ford also seemed to have some appreciation for the innate value of human individuality and potential, as suggested by the following quotes attributed to him:
"There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible."
"All Fords are exactly alike, but no two men are just alike ... A young man ought to … look for the single spark of individuality that makes him different from other folks, and develop that for all he is worth. Society and schools may try to iron it out of him … but I say don't let that spark be lost; it is your only real claim to importance."
To believe that what makes you unique is what you should cultivate, because it’s what makes you valuable, seems like a consummate entrepreneurial idea to me.
(Note: for the record, Ford is also associated with -- shall we say -- much less laudable views on humanity, but for the sake of this article, we’ve just focused on his qualities as an entrepreneur.)
5. Beatrix Potter -- INFP
You probably know this famous author, illustrator, and naturalist for her Peter Rabbit books. But a famous entrepreneur?
Well, at a time when women of her class were expected to limit their sphere to embroidery and pouring tea, and businesswomen were barely heard of, she wrote, illustrated, and printed a limited edition of her first book until it got attention from publishers.
She turned that book into a best-selling collection, and developed a line of merchandise around the popularity of her books, before it was as common a thing to do as it is now. According to the National Trust Website, “in 1903 Beatrix Potter designed and patented a Peter Rabbit doll – making Peter Rabbit the world’s oldest licensed character.” She then added tea sets and other items to her merchandise line.
And she earned a great deal of money from all these endeavors. Eventually, she used the prodigious proceeds to buy up sheep farms and become a profitable innovator in that field. Sounds like an entrepreneur to me.
Also, true to many famous entrepreneurs, she had a philanthropic bent. In the interest of conservation and preservation, she left much of her land to the UK’s National Trust.