Entrepreneurs are a quirky bunch! Think about the most successful entrepreneurs known. They share something quite strange in common: a number of seemingly contradictory qualities and it is apparent that these entrepreneurs have been successful because of opposing qualities, not in spite of them. There are a number of different sets of opposing qualities recognised in entrepreneurs admired and here are a few of the most common ones according to Forbes, Business Insider and leading business website Investopedia
1. Brave yet vulnerable
Running a company is not for the faint of heart. Every day, there is a challenge of new opportunities, new problems, and new unknowns. In spite of them, decisions have to be made with confidence, whether an entrepreneur feels entirely confident about them or not.
At the same time, the best leaders are also vulnerable and willing to admit their weaknesses and worries, and own their mistakes as much as their successes. In a way, this is its own kind of bravery: bearing true self to peers, even in a space of safety.
An example is Warren Buffett who has spent an estimated 80 per cent of his career just thinking he has some similar oddball behaviours of his own, and often wondering what people say about him.
2. Easily distracted yet incredibly focused
In many ways, being an entrepreneur means living in a state of constant overstimulation. Between all of the emails, slacks, texts, conversations, and activity happening in the office, it is hard not to participate.
And participation can be a really good thing in terms of culture and team-building. At the same time, the most successful entrepreneurs know when to be incredibly focused, and which things deserve their dogged attention. When there is a major problem to solve or a key goal to achieve, only tenacious, directed focus will get the job done.
3. Humble yet arrogant
To be an entrepreneur, one has to be arrogant on some level. How else would you classify the belief that your ideas and vision are better than anyone else’s? At the same time, inspiring leaders are also extremely humble and give credit where it is due. They admit their own flaws and as much glory as they have achieved, they are still honest about how far they have to go.
4. Collaborative yet single-minded
Leaders who are too collaborative tend to be frustratingly ineffectual and paralysed by indecision. Leaders who are too single-minded alienate their employees with dictatorial decisions. The most effective entrepreneurs are those who know when to pull in their team members for a second opinion, and when to make an executive decision.
Most CEOs of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ calibre would be seen in expensive suits, but what Jobs wore personified his spirit of rebellion and of thinking different.
He used to wear black turtleneck, blue jeans, and new balance sneakers when unveiling revolutionary products. Apple employees jeered his scheme for a corporate outfit and so he had to settle for a personal uniform.
5. Respectful of rules yet willing to break them (for the right reasons)
Running a company means obeying lots and lots of rules. It also means knowing when to break them to unlock creativity or remove constraints that limit team’s ability to achieve goals. As Mark Zuckerberg is used to saying, to succeed you have to move fast and break things including the rules.
6. Outspoken yet a good listener
They are not afraid to share their opinions or to speak their minds with employees, investors, or the press. It is this outward-facing charisma that helps an enterprise secure funding, great employees, the right media coverage, and big deals. Exceptional leaders are not just skillful speakers, though, they are also attentive listeners.
They hear what others say and read between the lines of what they are not saying to determine what is really going on. This information then gets fed back into the conversation. Nike CEO, Mark Parker, takes it one step further and balances both hemispheres of his brain by reserving one side of his notebook for sketching and the other for brainstorming.
7. Gentle yet ferocious
Most entrepreneurs, who have had the most successful careers, are kind, empathetic, and even gentle. They care about people, and consider the emotions and needs of others in their day-to-day interactions. On the other hand, they are absolutely ferocious when the occasion calls for it. They fight tooth and nail for their vision, for their people, and for the good of their organisation.
8. Frivolous yet frugal
The pace and pressure of startup life is, to put it mildly, intense. The financial pressures young startups experience are equally intense. As stewards of investors’ money, entrepreneurs must be frugal most of the time.
However, there is a time and a place for frivolity to boost morale, encourage team bonding, and keep staff happy , which is important, given that they are the most valuable asset to an enterprise.
9 Disruptive yet inspiring
It is all too easy to slip into complacency, and for a startup, complacency is the quickest route to failure. The best entrepreneurs are disruptive to everyday routine, to conventional ways of thinking, and sometimes to the task at hand.
However, disruption, when done right, actually inspire the entrepreneur’s team to work harder, improve the quality of their output, and come up with creative new solutions they never would have developed otherwise. Those temporary disruptions can have a lasting impact on members and business outcomes.
10. Opportunists yet hyper-focused
Entrepreneurs are hard-wired to see opportunity where others don’t and don’t necessarily need to invent a new product but simply need to know how to create demand for something that already exists. Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson is probably the most recognised example for constantly identifying and tapping into new markets to the point of multi-industry domination.
Seeming counter-intuitive to opportunism, but when an entrepreneur innately connects with something (whether in business or in our personal lives), nothing will get in the way of reaching their goals. Some entrepreneurs even getting so focused that they forget to eat or sleep.