An entrepreneurial spirit is a self-motivated attitude and mentality that drives a person to fulfill their potential and purpose. This invisible force creates leaders who are action-oriented, productive, decisive, inspirational, innovative, and self-sacrificing. When someone has one, their words, thoughts, actions, and behaviors reflect in leadership qualities they demonstrate.
While having an entrepreneurial spirit is an advantage in the workplace, it is also something that can lead to work burnout and exhaustion. This is because people with one are intrinsically tied to their work. Because they are so passionate about their mission, their initiatives have the power to consume them. When this happens, stress and unhappiness follow. Adverse health effects such as high blood pressure, hypertension, heart disease, strokes, and mental disorders are common in those who suffer from too much work anxiety and stress.
Learning how to protect yourself from this problem is crucial if you want to develop your entrepreneurial spirit. Keep yourself fueled by learning more about what this trait is, why it’s important to have and maintain an entrepreneurial spirit, signs one is present, and what to do to keep it alive.
- Those seeking entrepreneurial spirit should be mindful of work burnout and exhaustion.
- Jean-Baptiste Say helped the word “entrepreneur” gain popularity as a way to describe risk-taking business owners.
- One in five employees say they’d stay at a profit-driven company for more than five years.
- 70 percent of businesses with mentors survive past the five-year mark.
Understanding the Meaning of Entrepreneurial Spirit
The modern meaning of “entrepreneur” relates to a person who starts a company and offers a product or service. Yet, this can be misleading when it comes to understanding entrepreneurial spirit. This is because being a business owner is not a requirement for having one. To completely understand what it is, you must study the etymology of the word “entrepreneur.” “Spirit,” rooted in the Latin word spiritus meaning “breath” or “spirit,” is a little more straightforward. When put together using a less modern lens, the meaning of the words entirely change.
What Does Entrepreneur Mean?
The word entrepreneur stems from the French word entreprendre, meaning “to undertake,” “initiate,” “begin,” “start,” or “make.” Many attribute its popularization to French businessman and economist Jean-Baptiste Say who began using the word in response to Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations. While he admired Smith’s thoughts and ideas, he felt as though he did not capture the role risk-taking business owners played in capitalism. Say called these people “entrepreneurs,” defining them as those who shift “economic resources out of an area of lower and into an area of higher productivity and greater yield.” Over the course of the 20th century, the word became more commonly used. Today, people use the term “entrepreneurial spirit” to describe those who demonstrate the characteristics and traits of entrepreneurs.
What Is Entrepreneurial Spirit?
The entrepreneurial spirit is a mentality and type of intrinsic motivation that drives change and innovation. It pushes people to take on complex challenges, innovate, and make the world a better place. It is most common in changemakers who are tired of living the status quo and desire to use their gifts to make a positive difference on Earth.
As voiced by Steve Jobs in Apple’s “Think Different” campaign, these people are the “crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes . . . the ones who see things differently—they’re not fond of rules . . . You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things . . . they push the human race forward.”
The world needs people who answer the call they hear within themselves to step into their unique gifts and contribute to making the world a better place. Without them, there is no progression and innovation. When this happens, communities crumble and people suffer. We need leaders—we need people who will nurture the entrepreneurial spirit that drives them to solve the world’s greatest problems. This takes a lot of courage, self-belief, dedication, and knowledge. Because of this, entrepreneurial spirit is something you must recognize within yourself and learn how to foster and grow over the course of a lifetime.
Top Traits of Entrepreneurial Spirit
You might be wondering if any definite signs determine whether or not you have an entrepreneurial spirit. This is similar to the question: “Are leaders born or made?” The truth is having one is less about being “gifted” and more about shifting into an entrepreneurial mindset that seeks growth. The characteristics associated with the best entrepreneurial spirit include purpose, passion, persistence, critical thinking, proactiveness, influence, positive mindset, consistency, and grit. Let’s take a closer look at these leadership qualities to see where you might need to improve.
Those with an entrepreneurial spirit feel a part of themselves compelled to pursue a specific purpose. Whether they’re a leader within a purpose-driven company or starting a movement of their own, they crave fulfilling a cause that positively affects others. Additionally, the product or service they sell is also powered by a specific purpose.
Individuals with an entrepreneurial mindset don’t mind fighting and even suffering if it means they achieve their mission. They feel convicted to see their cause through, no matter what it takes. This is evident in how they speak, act, think, and behave.
Successful entrepreneurs have a different mindset when it comes to roadblocks. Instead of giving up when the going gets tough, they ask questions and pivot. This helps them find a way to overcome the obstacles facing them. They view problems as exciting challenges, even if others see them as insurmountable issues.
Those with entrepreneurial spirits are visionaries who constantly come up with new ideas and ways to improve, adapt, excel, and innovate the world around them. They use their vision and foresight to take calculated risks, avoid harm, and construct better paths to success.
Those with an entrepreneurial mindset focus on acting instead of reacting. They’re always operating with the future in mind. For example, they go ahead and fix problems that, if left unresolved, could become huge issues down the road. As leadership expert John C. Maxwell describes, “If you’re proactive, you focus on preparing. If you’re reactive, you end up focusing on repairing.”
Those with entrepreneurial spirit are influential. Whether they’re motivating their team to keep pushing forward toward project completion or mentoring employees so they too can develop into leaders, they inspire, motivate, support, and encourage the people around them. This brings out the greatness in not only themselves but also in others.
Optimism is something those with an entrepreneurial spirit seem to have in droves. This is because, as mentioned earlier, leaders think differently. Failure and challenges aren’t perceived as negative experiences—they’re learning opportunities that provide growth and room for new ideas.
Those with an entrepreneurial spirit know that reaching their goals takes consistent action. People who aren’t willing to put in the daily work and practice positive habits that get them closer to their objectives will never see their dreams fulfilled. In addition to this, as writer Daniel Transon puts it, “Consistency is a key element, without which, a leader is incapable of getting respect, success, or even developing confidence in others.”
Financial success doesn’t just happen. Cultivating an entrepreneurial spirit takes grit, resilience, and dedication. Based on entrepreneur, CEO, psychologist, and author Angela Duckworth’s study on success, grit is the defining factor in whether ambitious people reach their goals. In her book, she explains, “Grit is about working on something you care about so much that you’re willing to stay loyal to it . . . it’s doing what you love, but not just falling in love―staying in love.”
Tips for Fostering Your Entrepreneurial Spirit
Entrepreneurial spirits need nurturing. If they aren’t developed and grown, they will function as a drain. Working toward your passion and fulfilling your mission requires leadership skills. If you don’t know how to properly lead yourself and your employees, you’ll quickly find your business, health, and well-being suffering. To avoid these problems, implement the tips below. They will help you foster and grow the entrepreneurial mindset and characteristics you need to fully step into your calling.
Tip 1: Chase Purpose Over Profits
As the late CEO of Zappos Tony Hsieh once said, “Chase the vision, not the money, the money will end up following you.” This is because organizations without a purpose automatically set themselves up for failure. Both customers and team members want to help businesses that are committed to creating a better future. For example, a study from Accenture found that “63% of surveyed global consumers prefer to purchase products and services from companies that stand for a purpose that reflects their own values and beliefs, and will avoid companies that don’t.” On the other hand, when it comes to the workforce, research from Deloitte found only one in five employees would stay at a profit-driven organization for more than five years. This goes to show purpose-driven businesses are far more likely to succeed than those that are not.
People starting small businesses should:
- Create a business plan that clearly states the company’s vision and mission. Vision is a clear projection of a greater future your business works to accomplish. It is what guides the company’s mission, which is how the team makes the vision a reality.
- Lead with the vision and mission of the small business in mind.
- Only develop business strategies that get the company closer to this goal. This makes ideas impactful and meaningful.
- Explain the “Why” behind projects, tasks, goals, and metrics. Associate them to the large-scale purpose of the company. This helps create a culture where team members feel motivated and inspired by the small business’s vision and mission.
Tip 2: Lead with a Growth Mindset
Like purpose, a growth mindset is a necessity for those with an entrepreneurial spirit. Those with a growth mindset have a positive mentality and see life as an exciting learning experience. They’re eager to learn new skills, push boundaries, take on challenges, and seek out knowledge that betters their leadership abilities. One of the most distinctive characteristics of a leader is that they’re always in motion. Whether they’re problem-solving, implementing a plan, or challenging what can be done with an innovative idea, they never stop, even when setbacks occur. Without this mindset, you cannot effectively guide a small business because companies are always in flux. Nothing is ever guaranteed or fixed.
To develop a growth mindset:
- Eliminate and discourage the idea of perfectionism in the workplace. Practice being accountable for goals that are outside your normal responsibilities. If you fail, acknowledge what went wrong and find the lesson in this learning experience. Additionally, communicate this with your team. It’s crucial that your employees also develop a growth mindset. Having open conversations about mistakes and how to improve leads to innovation and excellence.
- Make it a point to grow as a leader each and every day. Whether you spend 30 minutes reading a leadership book, listening to a business podcast, or working through an online training course, get proactive about learning to lead.
- Master problem-solving so anxiety and stress don’t take over your mind. In addition to this, working through problems helps you adapt and roll with the punches.
- Speak, think, and act with optimism and positivity. A positive mindset breeds perseverance and resilience in the face of adversity—something all leaders face at some point in their lives.
Find out more about shifting over to a growth mindset.
Tip 3: Practice Actionable Thinking
When leaders aren’t proactive, team members stop making headway on the company’s mission. They’re too busy fighting the battles in front of them. As explained earlier, an entrepreneurial spirit is a living, breathing, action-oriented force. For this reason, those who want to foster it must learn how to make good decisions they can put into implementation. To do this, they need to assess risks, develop an execution plan, and lead their employees in the right direction. Additionally, these duties must also be completed in a time-conscious manner. If they are not, problems worsen, the individuals at the business become more stressed or frustrated, burnout ensues, and a chaotic work environment develops.
To become a decisive leader:
- Be humble and ask for the team’s recommendations and advice on how to solve problems, innovate, or adjust.
- Don’t make decisions based on emotions. Give yourself at least 24 hours to fully process how you feel.
- Create a set of boundaries that guide your decision-making. For example, if you have established a firm budget, do not operate outside these lines.
- Reverse engineer the outcomes of potential decisions. Consider what the end result would be, and whether or not it would be favorable. If it is, then work backward from the result to step one in the process of goal achievement. Avoid executing strategies where the sacrifices and outcome aren’t worth the end result.
- Weigh out the pros and cons of decisions.
- Seek the counsel of someone who has successfully navigated similar situations.
Read the full guide on decision-making.
Tip 4: Get a Mentor
Finally, successful entrepreneurs are fueled by mentorship. Working toward a just cause and a greater vision of the future can be depleting without this kind of assistance. A great mentor is a motivational and inspirational figure in your life who will push you to move forward in sustainable new ways. They do this by giving guidance, providing perspective, and supplying useful advice. As a result, they limit bad decisions, increase relationship-building opportunities, and nurture the force driving a person’s entrepreneurial spirit. In addition to this, the best mentors increase a small business owner’s likelihood of success. A survey conducted by The UPS Store found “70 percent of mentored businesses survive more than five years . . . double the rate of businesses who choose not to have a mentor.” Undoubtedly, a mentor plays a critical role in a leader’s life.
To find a mentor:
- Consider business leaders in your personal network who can grow your entrepreneurial skills. For example, think about the people who have helped shape your career. Write them a personal message about how meaningful their guidance is to you, and ask them if they’d be willing to briefly meet once a week.
- Ask your colleagues if they can provide an introduction to someone they know who has successfully achieved the career trajectory you’re on.
- Use social media to find mentorship groups by searching words and hashtags like “business mentorship,” “mentor,” or “business coaching.”
- Look for free mentorship opportunities using SCORE or Meetup.com.
Discover more about finding a mentor.
Join a Community of Like-Minded Business Owners
There is strength in numbers, which is why joining a mastermind group is another part of developing and growing an entrepreneurial spirit. When you’re an ambitious go-getter who feels like you were called to instigate long-term change in the world, you need to surround yourself with a group of others who feel the same way. Additionally, these professionals will understand your pain points such as juggling work-life balance, facing challenges like scaling a company, and handling tough business decisions. As the Greek philosopher Epictetus advised, “The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.” A mastermind provides a life-changing opportunity for those with an entrepreneurial spirit. Together, you will get pushed to fulfill your purpose and potential, all while learning the skills you need to succeed.
Want inspiration? See how others put their entrepreneurial spirit to the test:
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- Accenture. (2023). N/A. www.accenture.com. https://www.accenture.com/us-en/insights/strategy/brand-purpose?c=strat_competitiveagilnovalue_10437227&n=mrl_1118
- Beattie, A. (2022). Who Coined the Term ‘Entrepreneur’? Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/08/origin-of-entrepreneur.asp
- entrepreneur | Etymology, origin and meaning of entrepreneur by etymonline. (n.d.). Etymonline. https://www.etymonline.com/word/entrepreneur
- National Mentoring Month for Small Businesses. (n.d.). Web Starter Kit. https://www.theupsstore.com/about/pressroom/small-business-mentoring-month-2014
- Rewriting the rules for the digital age. 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends. https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/global/Documents/About-Deloitte/central-europe/ce-global-human-capital-trends.pdf