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New Research Finds Entrepreneurial Leaders Have More Exceptional Personalities Than Corporate Leaders

People love to label themselves, and others, with character traits. This is especially true in the workplace: the innovator, the people pleaser, the bold, etc. There’s no shortage of personality assessment tools that give you a type or a color. Personality traits define our path in life. What’s more, they serve as predictors of our future: romantic relationships, career paths, and even job performance.

In particular, traits of conscientiousness and emotional stability track with heightened job performance. The present study wanted to go further and explore the personality differences between different types of positions: entrepreneurs, managers, supervisors, and employees.

Personality at work

Managers, entrepreneurs, and supervisors all share the responsibility of leading others, but they have very different roles. Entrepreneurs create the idea and the process of implementing the idea of the company they founded. Managers set goals, motivate employees, and organize activities for the companies they work in. Supervisors are more involved in the day-to-day work and operational mandates.

To compare these four positions, the researchers used data from the U.K. Household Longitudinal Study, a survey that collects annual information about U.K. households. Through this survey, they were able to collect information about employment, as well as personality. Personality traits were broken down into the Big Five: neuroticism, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and extraversion.

Let’s look at each one in turn.

Neuroticism: Anxiety, pessimism, self-consciousness

Entrepreneurs and managers were found to be lower in neuroticism compared with supervisors and employees. This could be because emotional stability makes it easier to deal with the stress and uncertainty that are often associated with these positions. Both of these positions have integral responsibilities to ensure the success of their companies. ‘

As an entrepreneur, it can be hard to predict the outcome of a new project. As a manager, it can be difficult to meet and sustain goals. A calm, optimistic outlook in the face of distress can be a determining factor for success.

Agreeableness: Cooperation, trust, compassion

Managers were found to be less agreeable than supervisors and employees. Although it is true that being more agreeable would improve co-worker and customer relations, in some ways, it may be more beneficial for managers to be lower in agreeableness.

Managers have to make difficult decisions for the good of their company, which may involve negative consequences for their co-workers. Being lower in agreeableness allows them to make these decisions and prioritize their own self-interest as well as the interest of the company.

Openness to experience: Intellectual curiosity, open-mindedness, creativity

Entrepreneurs were found to be more open to experience than managers, supervisors, and employees. This finding is perhaps the least surprising. Entrepreneurs need to be innovative, as they need to create a service or product that is new and different from what is already out there.

Managers were found to be less open to experience than both supervisors and employees. For managers, creativity and innovation aren’t their utmost priorities; consistency is the name of the game for them.

Conscientiousness: Discipline, organization, responsibility

Entrepreneurs, managers and supervisors were found to be more conscientious than employees. In higher positions, conscientiousness is selected through promotions and senior hiring.

Extraversion: Sociability, assertiveness, gregariousness

Entrepreneurs and managers were found to be more extroverted than supervisors and employees. Having exceptional social skills is crucial for entrepreneurs as it allows them to have good relationships with other companies that can help them expand their reach.

These skills will also be key to ensuring they pitch their ideas to interested parties in the best way. Managers on the other hand need to be dominant in order to assert their authority over their employees.



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