INTRODUCTION

 

Over the years the marriage between the field of entrepreneurship and psychological personality theory has been unstable at best. During the 1960s research by McClelland and others dealing with the relationship between achievement motivation and entrepreneurship offered considerable promise (McClelland, 1961, 1962, 1965; McClelland & Winter, 1969). In this period also the Michigan State University research (Collins & Moore, 1964; Smith, 1967) gave further support to the view that a clear link exists between personality and the potential for entrepreneurial success.

Yet as the review by Bird (1989) attests, the follow-on to these initial successes was sporadic and, even on occasion, not particularly fruitful. By the early 1990s Guth (1991) was inclined to write off the personality-entrepreneurship line of research entirely, believing that other more promising avenues for study existed. The early conference volumes edited by Kent, Sexton, and Vesper (1982) and Sexton and Smilor (1986) contained much discussion of personality linkages and even chapters on the subject. Yet the third volume in this series (Sexton & Kasarda, 1992) has very little to say and no chapter at all.

Nevertheless, the promise of the 1960s has been maintained by several lines of research which, although not as well known as the McClelland and Collins/Moore studies, have continued to yield support for some type of linkage between personality and entrepreneurial success. Among these are the work of Roberts (1991) on technological entrepreneurship, the research on task motivation theory by Bellu and his co-workers (Bellu, 1988, 1992, 1993; Bellu, Davidsson & Goldfarb, 1989, 1990; Bellu & Sherman, 1993, 1995), and the studies also conducted on task motivation theory initiated by the author and Norman Smith (Miner, 1986, 1990, 1993; Miner, Smith, & Bracker, 1989, 1992a, 1994; Smith, Bracker & Miner, 1987; Smith & Miner, 1984, 1985). These research efforts provide the intellectual underpinnings of the present study. They yield the global hypothesis that—

  1. Personality characteristics of entrepreneurs, as measured by personality tests and questionnaires, are effective predictors of the subsequent success (growth) attained by the firms of these entrepreneurs.

A major problem with prior research appears to be that it tends to assume only one type of personality underlying successful entrepreneurship. The present research hypothesized multiple types, but at the outset was able to specify only two—a personal achiever type, consistent with the early McClelland and Collins/Moore expectations, and a real manager type, consistent with the life-cycle formulations of Galbraith (1982), Churchill and Lewis (1983) and Mintzberg (1984), as well as the more recent extrapolation of these views contained in Dyer (1992).

Subsequently, as our research progressed, at close to the half-way mark, we were able to identify two additional types of successful entrepreneurs—the empathic supersalesperson and the expert idea generator. These two types introduce a considerable expansion, thus extending the horizon of entrepreneurship. A major difficulty with prior research on the personalities of entrepreneurs may well have been that multiple personality types were not considered. In any event, the second hypothesis was—

  1. There are four types of entrepreneurs who can produce subsequent success (growth) in their firms—1) personal achievers, 2) real managers, 3) empathic supersalespeople, and 4) expert idea generators—each of which may be defined in terms of a set of personality test and questionnaire results.

This view moves well beyond prior formulations with its clear emphasis on multiple types of entrepreneurs, and its introduction of the empathic supersalesperson and expert idea generator types. In addition the logic of such a formulation seems to argue for a further theoretical extension involving multiple patterns. Accordingly—

  1. The greater the number of key personality patterns present, defined by psychological tests and questionnaires and extending from 0 to 4, the more likely that subsequent entrepreneurial success (growth) will be attained.

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