Personality Traits of Entrepreneurs: A Review of Recent Literature

by Sari Pekkala Kerr, William R. Kerr, and Tina Xu

Overview — This paper brings together recent findings in the academic literature on the prevalence of various personality traits among entrepreneurs and their impact on venture performance. It focuses on three themes: (1) personality traits of entrepreneurs and how they compare to other groups; (2) attitudes towards risk that entrepreneurs display; and (3) overall goals and aspirations that entrepreneurs bring to their pursuits.

Author Abstract

We review the extensive literature since 2000 on the personality traits of entrepreneurs. We first consider baseline personality traits like the Big-5 model, self-efficacy and innovativeness, locus of control, and the need for achievement. We then consider risk attitudes as well as goals and aspirations of entrepreneurs. Within each area, we separate studies by the type of entrepreneurial behavior considered: entry into entrepreneurship, performance outcomes, and exit from entrepreneurship. This literature shows common results and many points of disagreement, reflective of the heterogeneous nature of entrepreneurship. We label studies by the type of entrepreneurial population studied (e.g., Main Street vs. those backed by venture capital) to identify interesting and irreducible parts of this heterogeneity, while also identifying places where we anticipate future large-scale research and the growing depth of the field are likely to clarify matters. There are many areas, like how firm performance connects to entrepreneurial personality, that are woefully understudied and ripe for major advances if the appropriate cross-disciplinary ingredients are assembled.

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