You don’t have to be like Steve Jobs to be a great entrepreneur

When people think of successful business builders, they might think of someone like Elon Musk or Steve Jobs. But “Built for Growth,” a new book from Princeton and Berkeley professors Chris Kuenne and John Danner, says it’s time to broaden our assumptions.

“As we got into it, we realized that who you are actually shapes how you build your company,” Kuenne said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. “There’s a lot of research out there that separates from entrepreneurs to non-entrepreneurs; we think that’s a lot of hooey.”

“Anybody can be an entrepreneur,” Kuenne added. “There’s also an assumption that all the most successful entrepreneurs are the same; they’re all like Steve Jobs. We went out and proved that there are actually four distinct types of entrepreneurs.”

On the podcast, Kuenne and Danner argued that there are actually “millions” of capable women and men across America who have the tenacity to build the next great companies. Below the audio embed, we’ve summarized the four personality types that they identified in winning entrepreneurs: The Driver, The Crusader, The Explorer and The Captain.

You can listen to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

The Driver: “These are folks that are absolutely fixated by the product they bring to market,” Danner said. “If they’re right, they have the tenacity to overcome the obstacles, overcome the risks and doubters and bring something to market. People working with Drivers have a hard time sometimes. They tend to not brook too much dissent; they tend to expect the same level of intensity from the people around them; [and] they tend to value talents very much like themselves, so they’re hiring ‘mini-mes,’ when in fact they need to be hiring a broader, more diverse set of folks.”

The Crusader: “The Crusader is someone who’s drawn into entrepreneurship by some sense of mission,” Kuenne said. “We like to say that the Crusader is almost like the accidental entrepreneur. What’s exquisitely good about the Crusader is he or she finds this lack of alignment inside ecosystems, and is able to listen really well to the customer and suppliers and actually create value. Because they fly at such a high level of abstraction, they love the idea and its solution; they’re not very good operationally. It’s very important that a Crusader team up with a very strong chief operating officer.”

The Explorer: “These are people who are fascinated by complex puzzles that have some commercial significance,” Danner said. “They’re systems thinkers — by background, by instinct — and they bring to market a different kind of solution, borne of a different kind of thinking. Explorers have that analytical capability, which is quite impressive; they start to struggle because they sometimes view the other resources around them — specifically, people — as inputs into an equation in their mind. You tend to lose the human element, sometimes, in the cultures that they need and surround themselves with.”

The Captain: “The Captain is motivated by tapping the inner productivity of the team, fascinated by how to get the right people in the right seats motivated with clear objectives and a clear vision,” Kuenne said. “Sometimes people mistake the Captain for being compassionate. The Captain is actually pretty calculating in putting you in the right job. And if you don’t do a good job, you’re out of there — so very demanding, but in a supportive and clear way. The Captain sometimes over-delegates, empowers the team to such a degree that he or she can lose touch with the fabric of what’s going on in the marketplace.”

“Built for Growth” is currently available in hardback. On the book’s website, you can take a quiz to see which of these four categories you most belong to.

If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts:

  • Recode Media with Peter Kafka features no-nonsense conversations with the smartest and most interesting people in the media world, with new episodes every Thursday. Use these links to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • Too Embarrassed to Ask, hosted by Kara Swisher and The Verge’s Lauren Goode, answers the tech questions sent in by our readers and listeners. You can hear new episodes every Friday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
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