Characteristics of Social Entrepreneurs

SEs are often described in terms of their behaviors and personal characteristics. The proponents of such an approach tend to frame social entrepreneurs in glowing terms. For instance, Abu-Saifan stated that “Social entrepreneurs create social value and initiate social change through commitment, innovation, vision and change leadership” (Abu-Saifan, 2012). Dees (2001) called them a “rare breed”. Like entrepreneurship, which is often discussed in terms of “the heroic individual”, emphasis in social entrepreneurial studies focuses on the individual. Thus, like the previous studies of leadership and entrepreneurship, researchers have categorized Social Entrepreneurship by its practitioners’ personal characteristics and behaviors. For example, Abu-Saifan (2012) compared and contrasted SEs with traditional profit-oriented entrepreneur, finding shared characteristics as well as unique traits. Focus on the individual and personal traits is important because, as long as the process of identification and categorization of SEs remains imprecise and open to interpretation, individuals will self-identify as SEs based on their perceived match with these characteristics. See Table 1.

Table 1 Abu-Saifan’s Unique and Common Characteristics of profit-oriented entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs

Unique characteristics of profit- oriented entrepreneurs

Characteristics common to both types

Unique characteristics of social entrepreneurs

• High achiever

• Innovator

• Mission leader

• Risk bearer

• Dedicated

• Emotionally charged

• Organizer

• Initiative taker

• Change agent

• Strategic thinker

• Leader

• Opinion leader

• Value creator

• Opportunity alert

• Social value creator

• Holistic

• Persistent

• Socially alert

• Arbitrageur

• Committed

• Manager

• Visionary

• Highly accountable

Source: Abu-Saifan (2012, p. 25)

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