When you start a business, life becomes more demanding than ever before. There’s a lot of stress, and while stress breeds some unsavory side effects, it can also develop resilience and perseverance. When looking for the entrepreneur personality trait that increases your odds of success in business, you have to consider the nature of entrepreneurship and what it takes to be successful.
The very nature of entrepreneurship helps us develop personality traits that increase the odds of success, but only one entrepreneur personality trait has been shown to correlate significantly with business success.
What we know about this entrepreneur personality trait
Personality traits have been studied with intensity for decades. There are countless psychology theories that outline the different trait possibilities and how we develop them.
One that deserves your attention is the Big Five theory. It talks about 5 major dimensions of personality – the big five traits – that everyone possesses on a different scale of intensity.
The five traits are:
- Extraversion – Introversion
- Agreeableness – Antagonism
- Openness – Rigidity
- Conscientiousness – Undirectedness
- Neuroticism – Emotional stability
Numerous studies have shown that only one of these traits has a positive effect on entrepreneur success (one has a negative effect, and the other three didn’t have a measurable effect at all).
The entrepreneur personality trait for success
Authors of a study on The Big Five personality traits in entrepreneurs thought that an entrepreneur’s level of conscientiousness and openness would positively affect long-term success. They were only half right.
The only entrepreneur personality trait that accurately predicts success is conscientiousness.
Conscientiousness is defined as “the personality trait of being thorough, careful, or vigilant” on Wikipedia. It’s easy to see why conscientiousness is considered the entrepreneur personality trait. Those who are in the habit of being thorough and careful in their work will always produce better work than those who are not.
While openness was thought to be related to the likelihood of long-term business success, that’s not necessarily true. The authors of the study actually found that openness has a negative relationship with long-term venture survival. This means the more open to experience an entrepreneur is, the lower their odds of success.
Why is that? Let’s consider what the openness trait entails. Openness has six dimensions: Active imagination (fantasy), aesthetic sensitivity, attentiveness to inner feelings, preference for variety, and intellectual curiosity. In any setting other than business ownership, these are excellent qualities to have. Why don’t they translate into success for entrepreneurs?
It may be that the preoccupation with intellectual curiosity, fantasy, and preference for variety put entrepreneurs at odds with the longevity of their business. Those who are more closed off to new experiences do a better job of sticking to their core idea and crossing the finish line.
Which traits do not affect success?
The other three traits – extraversion, neuroticism, and agreeableness – didn’t have a relationship with entrepreneurs’ long-term success.
That’s interesting, because it can be tempting to assume that extroverted, agreeable, and emotionally stable people make the most successful entrepreneurs. But the lack of data to support that shows us that when it comes to an entrepreneur’s personality, as long as you’re conscientious and thoughtful in your work, almost anything else goes.
Thinking back on statements made by incredible entrepreneurs and leaders in the past, that makes perfect sense.
“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Steve Jobs