What does entrepreneurial-ism mean to you?

The Old French ‘entreprendre,’ which simply means ‘undertake,’ has been piled on with conflicting meaning. 

– We can safely limit ‘entrepreneur’ to someone who undertakes creating a new for-profit or non-profit venture. 

– We can also focus on personal qualities that make entrepreneurs successful – meaning they achieve (or steadily move closer toward) whatever purpose they set out to achieve. 

Successful entrepreneurs have a very specific tension that has become a passion (as not all tensions do). That passion is a tension between POSITIVE CHANGE and STABILITY. 

This will be clearer in the description of personal qualities of successful entrepreneurs: 

1. PASSION FOR POSITIVE CHANGE – This isn’t (just) about change in one’s own life. It’s not as petty as “I need to get out of this place” or “I need a job” or “I need more money.” Though many new business pursuits grow out of these desires, and most fail if self-centered change is the only object of passion. 

Successful entrepreneurs are motivated by improving circumstances at a broader level. Helping individuals attain their greatest potential… Making communities or economies stronger… Creating new or better products to solve existing problems or fill existing gaps… Helping organizations function efficiently and profitably… Addressing global problems, such as poverty or crime or government waste, etc. 

It is pretty much safe to state that all successful entrepreneurs are driven by a passion for some sort of change at these levels – change that extends beyond self, change that has positive impact on part of the rest of the world, change that is at least partially selfless. 

2. RISK AVERSION – Contrary to common wisdom, entrepreneurs are not risk addicts. In fact, most successful entrepreneurs are risk-averse. They like stability and security. But they come to terms with the fact that no positive change comes without risk. Because they _are_ “positive change addicts,” they’d rather manage the risks themselves. 

3. SELF-AWARE, NOT INDEPENDENT– Success comes from a brutal honesty with yourself about both what you do well and what you’re willing to do, and a willingness to engage others to fill in your gaps. This is a deep commitment to only focus on your areas of excellence, not just your capability. If someone else can do it just as well, let them do it. Use coaches, consultants, and partners where needed. Focus on your own core. 

4. PASSIONATE ABOUT RESULTS – But this results-passion is subjected to the passion for positive change, risk-aversion, and self-awareness. From those come strategies, from strategies come decisions, and decisions are acted upon to generate measurable results. 

The tension between positive change and risk aversion is alleviated through self-awareness, partnerships, and results-orientation. 

Incidentally INTRApreneurs – those who experience this same tension but for whatever reason remain in established organizations – will succeed if given a great deal of freedom and influence to do these very things. 

Every for-profit and non-profit organization – even the largest international corporations – began as an entrepreneur’s dream. The successful ones incorporated the above. It is unfortunate that as they grow, and as they move further away from the original dreamer, many lose these core attributes.

Dr Surya M Ganduri, PhD. PMP. is the Founder & President of eMBC, Inc., an international firm specializing in strategic and executive leadership development processes that Help People Succeed in an Evolving World. Dr Surya has over 28 years of business experience in management consulting, leadership development, executive coaching, process improvements, organizational development and youth leadership. For more information visit www.eMBCinc.com or contact eMBC, Inc., directly at (630) 445-1321.

About Dr. Surya

Using Quantum Physics and business research, Dr. Surya explores the correlation between the science of consciousness and patterns in the business world, to suggest innovative ways of using this wisdom to lead and succeed in a business environment that is constantly evolving at a rapid pace. Self-awareness is the awareness of the self as separate from the thoughts that are occurring at any point in time. Without self-awareness the self perceives and believes the thoughts that are occurring to be who the self is. Self-awareness gives one the option or choice to choose thoughts being thought rather than simply thinking the thoughts that are stimulated from the accumulative events leading up to the circumstances of the moment. Along with his work as an Author, Writer, Blogger and popular Internet Radio Talk Show Host, Dr. Surya is in-demand as a public speaker. Clients include small to large corporations and individuals.


  1. Received the following in an email…
    Hello Surya,

    Good morning. Just saw your blog and felt like passing this comment –

    “The tension between positive change and risk aversion is alleviated through self-awareness, partnerships, and results-orientation”.

    Again, very well said Surya – and it perfectly aligns with the foundational fabrics of our Purpose driven PTV© view – and I perhaps can rephrase your statement with PTV© terminologies as follows –

    “The tension between positive change producing experience pools and risky capability pools are alleviated through (PtC©) driven Collaboration (self-awareness, partnerships, and results-orientation).”

    As a matter of fact we had echoed a similar thinking in one of our blogs leveraging CKP’s (one of my role models) quotes!

    “For large companies to be entrepreneurial, they have to create aspirations greater than their resources. You can call it as strategy as stretch or strategic intent”

    Finally I say Amen to your following statement as well brother!

    Incidentally INTRApreneurs – those who experience this same tension but for whatever reason remain in established organizations – will succeed if given a great deal of freedom and influence to do these very things.


  2. After I posted this article, I thought more about it and felt like expanding a little more on the tension and how it translates to ‘passion’. So, here it is. Let me know, if you agree or disagree and why?

    The focus on the creative *tension* between qualities rather than the typical “pure” approach to identifying the characteristics of entrepreneurialism, leadership, etc., not only works, it is much more accurate of what really defines people who succeed in their endeavors. It is the healthy dynamic/sustainable tension between change and stability, risk aversion and self-awareness and, perhaps, between passion for results and patience with process that defines the entrepreneurial spirit and, the noble spirit of a leader as well.

    We encounter numerous tensions daily. Most we resolve and move on with little thought or perceived consequences. We often label these tensions variously as choices, compromises, tradeoffs, purchases, investments, sacrifices, and a whole host of other terms with both positive and negative connotations.

    But some people have at least subconsciously recognized and grappled with a tension to an extent that it defines their modus operandi – and frequently their careers. We call that passion, but at its core it is tension resolution.

    The power of when we are clear on our core values and torn with a conflict between them (i.e. when making a decision or choice) is noteworthy. We cannot always resolve the conflict, so a tension remains and it defines us. Our pursuit to resolve such tension is the source of passion.

    So if we can identify our specific values in context, especially the ones that conflict and we cannot resolve, might we find our source of passion? We can help our clients do the same.

    Here are some examples on how to actually take organizations through that exercise, to some extent.

    In Strategic Planning, after identifying the core values; translate those values into real or hypothetical situations. Also, identify situations where two or more core values may appear to be irreconcilable.

    In Management Development, give managers the statement of the organization’s values. Let them translate those into situations in their work where it might be tempting to violate a value. Then have them resolve that tension the best they can.

    Doing these things causes the values to become real, and it gets people thinking of how to apply them rather than just state them. It does, in fact, also uncover passions.

  3. I liked the comment about Intrapreneurs and that very much resonates from my experience at 3M. This posting is very timely as I will be at General Mills next week with another former 3M colleague speaking to them about innovation

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