Can I Learn to Think More Like an Entrepreneur? Yes, and Here’s How!

Four ways any leader can unlock more creativity and be more successful. 

Can you imagine what the world would be like without entrepreneurs?

I can’t say for certain, but I think we might all still be sitting in a cave somewhere hitting stuff with rocks.

Fortunately, history is full of people with that entrepreneurial spirit. They imagine the world in a new and better way, and they drive big changes to make it a reality.

Of course, not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur. 

But I believe every leader can benefit from learning how to think like one. Entrepreneurial thinking helps you:

  • Identify problems and find creative solutions 
  • Be more adaptible as situations change and markets shift 
  • Build self-confidence by taking risks and overcoming challenges

Those are powerful leadership qualities, whether you’re launching a startup or managing a corporate team.

But what does that entrepreneurial spirit really look like? How can you develop it? 

I’ve talked to a lot of incredible entrepreneurs over the years. In those conversations – and in my own experience starting David Novak Leadership – I’ve found four common characteristics in how successful entrepreneurs think. 

In today’s newsletter, I want to walk you through them. Cultivate these four habits, and I know you’ll bring more entrepreneurial thinking to your life as a leader. 

Be relentlessly curious.

The best entrepreneurs I've ever met are curious. They want to know how things work. They’re always thinking about what needs to be done to make the world better. 

And that kind of curiosity opens up doors. 

I interviewed Michael Walrath, the CEO and founder of Yext, on How Leaders Lead. He has an incredible entrepreneurial track record.

He lives by the words of Paul Graham at Y Combinator, who told him that “Founders live in the future and they build what’s missing.” 

Michael expounds on that, adding, “The only way you do that is by analyzing all the time – what’s missing? What’s not right here? What can be better? ”

Thinking like an entrepreneur starts by asking lots of questions that start with “why” and “what if.” 

When you embrace curiosity and ask questions, you’re going to make discoveries. Those fresh ideas and insights are fuel for any kind of leader, whether you’re an entrepreneur or not.

Focus on problems.

Do you know what a “duocorn” is in the world of startups?

Here’s a clue: a “unicorn” is someone who’s founded a company that’s earned a one billion dollar valuation.

So, yes, a “duocorn” is someone who’s done that incredible feat twice.

Uri Levine, the cofounder of Waze, is a “duocorn” who recently joined me on my podcast. And he believes entrepreneurs need to “fall in love with the problem” that they’re solving for customers.

Uri says, “If you solve a problem, it's guaranteed that you are creating value.”

What pain points are people experiencing, and how can you build something to address them?

When you put that problem at the center of all your work, Uri says, three things happen.

First, you instantly create value. People understand how your offering makes their life better, because it’s built to solve a specific problem.

Second, you simplify your marketing. It’s a lot easier to sell something because people can see how it will eliminate a problem they’re having.

Third, you build a stronger team, because people want to be a part of a solution to that problem, and that gives them a mission to rally around.

In whatever capacity you lead, look for the problems and pain points that need to be addressed. Listen to the people you serve (whether that’s customers or team members). Understand their struggles and what you can do to alleviate them.

Learn to listen to your gut.

As a leader, you face countless decisions every day. 

And every choice you make can have a significant impact on the success of your organization.

Amid all that pressure, it’s easy to lose sight of your instincts. 

But trusting your gut can be one of the most important tools in your entrepreneurial toolkit.

Your gut instinct is based on your past experiences, your knowledge, and your intuition. And when you’re blazing new trails as an entrepreneur – or as someone who thinks like one – your instincts can guide you toward the best decision. 

A lot of my big decisions come down to what my gut instincts tell me, particularly when it comes to decisions about people or creative ideas. 

In those areas, data and analysis can only take me so far. If I’m evaluating a marketing campaign or considering a big new hire, I feel most confident making those decisions with my gut.

And a lot of entrepreneurs understand the power of trusting that intuition, too.

Of course, this doesn't mean that you can ignore data and analysis altogether. You should use those tools to test your gut instincts and be informed about the reality of the situation you’re making decisions in.

But if you want to think more like an entrepreneur, learn how to trust your gut – and all the experience and intuition it represents.

Get comfortable with failure.

Every leader I talk to shares at least one leadership failure story with me. And as the guy who came up with Crystal Pepsi, I can relate! 

Failure is a part of life for leaders. It’s something we have to embrace if we want to succeed. 

And I don't know any entrepreneur that hasn't shared that failure story and then immediately followed it up by saying how thankful they are for that failure. 

Why? Because it’s how they learned the lessons they needed in order to be ultimately succeed.

If you want to think more like an entrepreneur, you have to get comfortable with failure.

As the Olympic gold medalist and figure skater Scott Hamilton so elegantly puts it, “Failure is 100% information.” 

When you’re willing to put yourself in situations where failure is possible, one of two things will happen.

Either you’ll succeed and enjoy the reward. Or you’ll fail, and you’ll get more information to help you next time. 

Until you have that mentality, you won't be willing to take the necessary risks for achieving success.

Entrepreneurs are incredibly special leaders! If you’re building something from scratch, know how much I admire your resilience and vision. I hope these insights can help you continue to cultivate the mindset you need to be successful.

But even if you’re not launching a new venture, every leader needs to bring a little entrepreneurial spirit to their work. When you develop:

  • a curious mindset
  • the skill to find and solve problems
  • the ability to trust your gut
  • a willingness to experience failure 

Then you can bring those visionary qualities to ANY leadership position. You can make breakthroughs in your organization, be more agile than the competition, and deliver more value to your customers.

Entrepreneurs – what other qualities serve you well as you grow your startup? Drop a comment below and let me know.

And if you’re not an entrepreneur, how would these qualities help you excel in your role as a leader? 

Share a comment below and join the conversation!