Horoscopes, the Enneagram, Myers-Briggs, the alignment system: Never before have there been so many ways to categorize our personalities. Particularly in a time when so much is out of our control, it can be nice to feel like there’s a sense of order binding us together.
While founders share many characteristics — we’re disproportionately tolerant of risk, and have a high level of confidence in our own abilities, for instance — that doesn’t mean we’re all alike. In fact, we’re as different from one another as a Scorpio is from a Sagittarius, or an INFP from an ENTJ. Sure, Elon Musk and Oprah are both entrepreneurs, but they embody two completely different founder archetypes. Which one are you?
Ruthless and seemingly unfeeling, the Machine is nevertheless a visionary mastermind when it comes to anticipating market needs and bringing them to fruition. Machines zero in on opportunities and clamp down with a vice-like grip, impervious to obstacles, human or otherwise, that threaten to get in their way. The Machine is great at forging a clear path and ensuring that there’s no confusion about the company’s objectives.
While The Machine is very effective at entering a market by force, their deep expertise and confidence in their own ideas mean they’re not always the best at growing a company or making it sustainable. Their intensity and controlling management style isn’t conducive to adapting for the long-term, or keeping talented employees — eager to bring in their own ideas and creativity — around for long.
Where Machines are dictatorial in their governing style, Unifiers are democratic. Sure, they have a vision, but they’re more interested in strengthening it through collaboration, and place high value on a consensus-building environment. They’ll act decisively when necessary, but in their eyes, the best idea wins, and they aren’t hesitant to abdicate power to those around them. This inclusive attitude not only helps foster employees’ sense of ownership — and thus, investment — in the company, it also leads to genuinely innovative ideas.
While the Unifier sounds great on paper, their lack of singular vision sometimes causes confusion within the ranks, and companies to subsequently flounder. Too many cooks in the kitchen can backfire, particularly if employees were attracted to an original vision that eventually gets muddied by too much contradictory feedback. On top of that, in markets where customer needs can turn on a dime, the Unifier’s inclusive approach often lacks the agility to keep up.
Charmers may not be the first to come up with an idea or product, but they will do it with the most panache. How? Their way with people and natural marketing intuition makes them immensely popular, both with customers and the various units within their own companies.
If you’re a Charmer, you’ve got magnetic appeal that results in legions of loyal followers. Your empathy means you’re highly attuned to the needs of customers, and you’ll make whatever adjustments you need in order to get it right.
That same high EQ means you easily forge connections with employees, investors, and other stakeholders that are all essential to a smooth-running operation. You’re a people pleaser in the best sense, and the culture you create not only pulls people in, but keeps them. However, your desire to be universally adored means you sometimes don’t have the heart to take tough but necessary actions.
You know the saying “Be the change you want to see in the world?” That’s the Fixer. They don’t set out looking for problems to solve; they see a problem that needs solving and decide that rather than wait for someone else, they’ll do it themselves.
Far from opportunists, Fixers are more focused on creating a means to an end than the end itself. Personally, I would consider myself a Fixer: My company, JotForm, was born from a need I saw for an easier, less cumbersome way to build online forms. Since no one had done it yet, I decided to leave the comfort of my day job and solve the problem myself. Turns out I wasn’t the only one looking for a solution: JotForm now has more than 9.1 million users.
Fixers tend to be the founder-type most often responsible for shifting paradigms. But their status as “accidental entrepreneurs” means they aren’t always the best at translating big-picture problems into reality. One particular deficit tends to be the habit of hiring people who share their overall vision for change, rather than those with the technical knowledge to actually get the project off the ground.
The Pace Setter
It might seem as though the Machine’s foil would be the Unifier, but it’s not: That would be the Pace Setter. While Pace Setters share the Machine’s gift of envisioning a goal and making it happen, they’re also flexible. If the Machine asks questions that no one else has asked, the Pace Setter asks the right questions at the right time, and trusts her team to take the appropriate action.
What sets the Pace Setter apart is her growth mindset. Like the Unifier, she is interested in input from her team, but only to a point. Pace Setters are masters at drawing a boundary between which parts of her vision are open to discussion, and which parts are not.
By both seeking input and establishing firm boundaries, the Pace Setter manages to keep her team engaged while also sticking to a clear objective. Delineating what is and is not up for debate also explicitly invites participation from team members, rather than leaving them wondering whether their opinions will be appreciated.
Why do these types matter?
Knowing what sort of entrepreneur you are isn’t an exercise in vanity. It’s actually a great tool for utilizing your strengths, and accounting for your weaknesses: If you know you’re a Machine, you’d do well to get a Pace Setter as a right-hand. If you’re a Fixer, take care to make hires not just because their views align with yours, but because they have the skills required to execute your vision. You can’t be every type of founder, but you can create a powerhouse team that embodies the best of all worlds.