Did you hear the one about the sociologist’s kid who got all F’s on his report card? When the sociologist asked why he got all F’s his son said: “You tell me, is it nature or nurture?”
The French call it je ne sais quoi. It’s that certain – indefinable – something that charismatic people seem to possess. A certain quality that is difficult to describe, let alone define, but we know it when we feel and/or see it.
Of course, je ne sais quoi manifests in all professions and aspects of life. You may see it in the genius of an artist, teacher, or gifted child. Everyone has natural gifts and talents. Some entrepreneurs have a gift; they know it; and they use it to their advantage (just as they should). The paradox of leveraging one’s je ne sais quoi, however, is that there is a tendency to over rely upon it.
Some of the earliest research into leadership, which included the study of business leaders, dealt with the topic of Trait Theory. Scientists found there are, indeed, natural born traits some people possess that make them effective leaders. However, these traits are only correlated with leadership, they do not cause leadership. For practical purposes, this means that someone can have the greatest natural talent for entrepreneurship but if those talents are not nurtured and refined, he/she won’t emerge as a leader. The careers of even the most naturally talented people will plateau if left unrefined. Je ne sais quoi only goes so far.
Those who believe they can “sell anything to anyone” based on their natural gifts are doing themselves and customers a disservice. It simply is not true. If it were, conversion ratios of those who believe this would be 100%. The potential of entrepreneurs is unlimited when they blend their natural talents with the skills of listening, researching, and persuasion. One’s je ne sais quoi provides a head-start, but the skills-based entrepreneur (who keeps learning and improving) will always win the race.