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Personality traits needed to lead a Social Business. A contribution by Wisdom university to CSB

Prof. Brunilda Paskali, during the Learning Mobility in Covilhã at UBI University - Portugal, (November 2019) gave an enlightening speech on what are the main differences between entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs today, in terms of competences and personal traits.


Abstract Social entrepreneurship is a relatively new way of doing business but which is becoming very popular especially in the last decades. Social entrepreneurs are committed to create positive changes, improve people’s lives and resolve some social problems which are not tackled by the traditional entrepreneurship or the governments. Some of the main personality traits of social entrepreneurship, but not only them, are: creativity, innovation, risk-taking, confidence and optimism, cooperation, will and belief to bring change etc. Projects like Erasmus help our universities not only grow and mature, but also help us build better curricula for our students. Better curricula means better-prepared students, and better prepared students means a better future for our countries. At the end of the day, that’s our mission: form the future leaders of our economy, politics and society. Why social entrepreneur? Because I believe that many problems that the world is facing today like environmental problems, lack of food, food safety issues, lack of water, gender issues etc., which are faced by a great number of people in the world, can be given a solution by the social entrepreneurs through new paradigms and new systems. They can make this happen because their main aim is not profit, even though they need to make profit in order to invest it on charitable actions or reinvest it in their companies. Their main drive is to make positive changes to the world, help people improve their lives, help social cohesion especially of disadvantaged groups, help improve the environmental problems, so, in one word, bring progress. This makes the social entrepreneurs kind of: strange, “crazy”, unreasonable, and unusual, in a world where, too often, profit is the main drive and wealth is the main aim. There is no better quotation that fits them then the expression of George Bernard Shaw, the Irish playwright, critic, novelist and political activist. “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man”. So, on one side, we have an entrepreneur who is profit oriented and, on the other side, we have the social entrepreneur who is social oriented. These differences are clear even in the dictionary definitions of entrepreneur and social entrepreneur. Entrepreneur Someone who exercises initiative by organizing a venture to take benefit of an opportunity. An entrepreneur supplies risk capital as a risk taker, and monitors and controls the business activities. The entrepreneur has the capacity and willingness to develop, organize and manage a business venture along with any of its risks in order to make a profit. Social entrepreneur Independent business individuals that act as agents of change for the society. They will work to improve innovative approaches to existing systems by seizing opportunities others have missed. They work to develop sustainable solutions for the purpose of changing society for the better.

Apart from the differences in their aims and targets, do entrepreneur and social entrepreneur have traits in common? Some academics say that entrepreneurial and social personalities are incompatible. They claim that traditional entrepreneurs are likely to exhibit high levels of self- interest and low levels of social awareness, which is contrary to the behaviour of a social entrepreneur. Other scholars argue that social and traditional entrepreneurs are similar and that the social entrepreneurs possess the same entrepreneurial personality traits as their traditional counterparts, with the sole difference that they are motived by different outcomes. So, there is not yet a consensus on this issue, but all of them agree that the list of entrepreneurial personality traits is almost endless.

Personally, I think that the greatest part of the entrepreneurial personality traits are found in both groups, but for some traits like empathy, social awareness or unconventional prospective belong to social entrepreneurs. I would like now, to discuss some of the main personality traits of social entrepreneurs. As I said above, the list might be endless, but I am focusing only on some of them.

Creativity Creativity is studied in many academic disciplines, including organizational behaviour, psychology, sociology, history and education. Researchers have tried to understand how creativity works between the individual and the environment, between groups of individuals collaborating within organizations. There are different types of creativity, such as perceptual or artistic, but here we will focus on the creativity of social entrepreneurs. The definition of social entrepreneurship implies that creativity is one of the key personality traits of social entrepreneurs. What is creativity in business? Creativity is the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality. Creativity is characterised by the ability to perceive the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns, to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena, and to generate solutions. Creativity means trust, independence, risk-taking, intuition, flexibility, as well as demonstrating the courage to change, to wave, to challenge traditions and change rules. To be considered creative, one must be able to work with unconsolidated ideas, where relevant facts are missing, rules are unclear, and "correct" procedures do not exist. Creativity is sometimes seen as a fundamental source of social and economic growth. Creativity involves two processes: thinking, then producing. And here, I think that creativity is closely related to another personality trait of the social entrepreneurs: Innovation. Innovation What is Innovation? The process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay. To be called an innovation, an idea must be replicable at an economical cost and must satisfy a specific need. Innovation involves deliberate application of information, imagination and initiative in deriving greater or different values from resources, and includes all processes by which new ideas are generated and converted into useful products. In business, innovation often results when ideas are applied by the company in order to further satisfy the needs and expectations of the customers. The social entrepreneurs need especially an innovative approach, keeping in mind the fact that often they try to solve social problems which have been not resolved by traditional entrepreneurs or even by the governments. So, improving the existing services or products that a company possesses, implementing new ideas and creating interesting and useful products for the customers, it is very likely that the business will succeed. To achieve that, business owners need both innovation and creativity.

Risk-taking Social entrepreneurs take the risk and step forward before making sure they have the right resources. Although David McClelland showed that every entrepreneur tends to exhibit risk behaviour, this appreciation was given long before the dramatic worldwide escalation of the phenomenon of social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurs are often so passionate about their vision that they risk their professional careers, their family lives (many have reported that when involved in pursuing their social mission, they faced severe marital problems) and financial resources (leaving well-paid jobs to pursue their passion). Some of them go even further and in the beginnings of undertaking a social mission they reach the extent of selling their properties to invest in start-up projects. Risk-taking comes at the same time with the act of taking advantage of new opportunities and making decisions in the face of uncertainty, which is often accompanied by social entrepreneurs efforts to maintain sustainability.

Confidence and optimism Creativity, innovation and entrepreneurial qualitiesin general, are involved in defining the qualities of social entrepreneurship in particular. Adequate identification of social entrepreneurs implies other personality traits. For example, a high level of confidence and optimism and the belief that things that initially seem unchanging can be changed enable the entrepreneur to focus on seemingly hopeless social issues. Passionate ways in which social entrepreneurs bring hope and new opportunities to society can only be effective if accompanied by their optimism. According to the psychologists, optimistic people are more willing to invest in new ideas or products, they are more persistent to achieve what they want to do, so optimism will lead to strong efforts which may lead to success. According to some specialists, optimism and trust are the foundation for the introduction of change in society and these two attributes are closely linked: Optimism shapes trust which, in turn, plays a powerful role in influencing civic activism. Cooperation If we look up the definition of cooperation we see that it is defined as the action of someone who is being helpful by doing what is wanted or asked for: common effort; but also as an association of persons for common benefit. Cooperation is undoubtedly the cornerstone of bottom-up social transformation. Individually, non-entrepreneurial executives, even if charismatic, usually only bring about short-term changes, which are largely based on personal energy and commitment. Unlike them, social entrepreneurs are willing to share their innovations and knowledge with others and replicate them. Social businesses, in their essence, have social collaboration. Social entrepreneurs prefer cooperation before competition. They strive to avoid competition and create pleasant, stress-free work environments. Building social capital is achieved through cooperation and collaboration. Belief to bring change What motivates social entrepreneurs? They are individuals who are driven by their mission, who believe in their ability to bring about change in society, even in the world. This belief is the reason for their persistence, perseverance, and commitment in pursuing the mission they have set themselves. Entrepreneurs are convinced that their ideas can bring about change, affecting key stakeholders, potential beneficiaries and, sometimes, an entire sector or market.

Social entrepreneurs also strongly believe that it is possible to make changes, not only in structures or procedures but, above all, in people's minds, so that they become the bearers of the new concept. In other words, they believe in the possibility of changing people and the whole world.


These were some of the main personality traits I have decided to discuss here today, but many other traits can be mention like: courage; perseverance, consciousness and discipline; patience; need for independence; empathy; high sense of social responsibility; unconventional prospective and many more. In conclusion, social entrepreneurs are people who are very much oriented towards social benefit rather than material benefit and who are keen and work hard to solve social problems of the society. They reveal main characteristics like creativity, innovation, perseverance, confidence and optimism and many other more, necessary for them to succeed in a competitive world and make it a better place to live.

Written by

Prof. Brunilda Paskali, Lecturer at the Economic Department - University College Wisdom (Albania). For the CSB project, participant in the Learning Mobility C2 in Covilhã at UBI University - Portugal, (November 2019).