“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Steve Jobs

Research in the field of psychology suggests that personality has a great deal to do with being a successful entrepreneur.

In a  study published in the highly regarded Journal of Applied Psychology (2006, Vol. 91, No. 2, 259-271), Hao Zhao of the University of Illinois at Chicago and Scott E. Seibert of the Melbourne Business School analyzed and combined the results of twenty-three independent research studies.  A statistical method known as meta-analysis was used which allows research studies to be combined in a way that yields overall trends within a field of research.

The twenty-three studies included in the meta-analysis compared entrepreneurs to a group of managers on the five factor personality (FFM) traits.  Statistical differences between entrepreneurs and managers were found on four out of the five FFM personality traits.   One clear finding was that entrepreneurs scored significantly higher than managers on the scales of Openness to Experience and Conscientiousness.

In general, entrepreneurs can be characterized as more creative, more innovative, and more likely to embrace new ideas than their manager counterparts (Openness to Experience). The results also indicated that entrepreneurs were higher than managers on Conscientiousness (i.e., drive and work ethic).

Further analysis indicated that the differences were due to the entrepreneurs having a higher achievement orientation as compared to managers.  Entrepreneurs and managers did not differ on other aspects of the Conscientiousness factor such as dependability, reliability, planning and organizational skills.

The second key set of results showed entrepreneurs to be significantly lower than managers on Neuroticism and Agreeableness.  In general, entrepreneurs appear to be more self-confident, resilient, and stress-tolerant than non-entrepreneurial managers.  These results are logical given the highly stressful, demanding, and changing  work environments which entrepreneurs usually find themselves.

Entrepreneurs are able to tolerate a greater amount of stress without anxiety, tension and psychological distress.  This may help entrepreneurs handle ambiguity, take risks and feel greater comfort with failure.

With regard to lower scores on Agreeableness, entrepreneurs were found to be tougher, more demanding, and more likely to use more negotiation and influence skills than managers.  Finally, no significant differences were found between the two groups on Extraversion.  Therefore, entrepreneurs were no more or less outgoing than the managers.

Our own research with our Career Profile Inventory suggests that most individuals who want to be their own boss are difficult to lead by others!  They are turned on most by risk taking, autonomy/independence, challenge and are adverse to self-promotion and politics.  Such individuals are often misunderstood by others as lacking clarity of career goals, having multiple interests, and “not being grounded” or responsible.  As young adults they had a difficult time selecting a major in college, sticking with a career plan and wanting to follow organizational policies and procedures.

If you want to learn more about your own personality and career orientation, take our new generation five factor assessment called Innate Index  or Career Profile Inventory (normed on over 50,000 adults) at http://talenttools.org….Be well…..

Kenneth Nowack, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist (PSY13758) and President & Chief Research Officer/Co-Founder of Envisia Learning, is a member of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations. Ken also serves as the Associate Editor of Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research. His recent book Clueless: Coaching People Who Just Don’t Get It is available for free for a limited time by signing up for free blog updates (Learn more at our website)

Posted in Engagement, Leadership Development, Relate

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