This is probably about the ten-thousandth article to question the roots of entrepreneurial success, a topic of eternal interest to anyone starting a business.

But the issue has never been studied so urgently as today, when under recessionary pressure, all techniques of self improvement are under the spotlight and the "secrets of success" are being analysed and quantified as never before.

Born or made, then?

Our instinct is always to answer "born". The popular image of the tycoon is someone with little or no schooling who makes it to the top through sheer guts and determination. We want to believe this formula is the key to success.

But very few of today's business leaders actually fit this profile. Instead, I have identified a large group that I would classify not as "born", but "re-born" in the spirit of self improvement.

It is remarkable how often I find them having to tackle an acute crisis at this early stage, which apparently determines their beliefs and actions in their future.

One of our youngest airline chairmen is someone I have known since he was a teenager. At that time he had no plans for further education or a career. Eventually his mother persuaded Len to work at a small airport as a junior apprentice in aircraft maintenance.

Here he just wanted to make the minimum effort, and soon came under the influence of a shocking malingerer who always cut corners on the maintenance work but knew how to make it look right for inspection.

One day the system of a small executive jet failed, and it missed nearly crashing into a holiday flight with nearly 200 people on board. After going into denial, Len faced up to the admission that it was his poor workmanship that had nearly cost human lives.

Overnight he resolved to dedicate himself to improving airline safety, and soon became an outstanding and inspiring figure for the industry.

Academic subjects

Does that mean that business entrepreneurship cannot be taught, either as an academic subject or as the theme for training courses and seminars?

Here we need to make a distinction between the popular business studies in universities, which explain the dynamics of commerce, and motivational training in the mind of the entrepreneur.

Many of my corporate clients are agreed that this mindset can have a positive effect on many aspects of daily business. This is besides that drive some have to reach the top job, where the world actually labels you an "entrepreneur".

In this mode, all manner of tasks can be performed more effectively and better decisions made too.

Key to growth

  • We like to think of the entrepreneur as the untaught genius
  • Enterprise comes down to a mindset which can be taught
  • Corporate players need to encourage this mindset in their teams

The author is a BBC guest-broadcaster and Motivational Speaker.  She is CEO of an international stress management and employee wellbeing consultancy based in London.  Contact them for proven stress