A Meta-Analysis of Achievement Motivation Differences between Entrepreneurs and Managers

Article excerpt

As a result of conflicting conclusions in primary studies, most narrative reviews have questioned the role of personality in explaining entrepreneurial behavior. We examine one stream of this research by conducting a meta-analysis of studies that contrast the achievement motivation of entrepreneurs and managers. The results indicate that entrepreneurs exhibit higher achievement motivation than managers and that these differences are influenced by the entrepreneur's venture goals, by the use of U.S. or foreign samples, and, to a less clear extent, by projective or objective instrumentation. Moreover, when the analysis is restricted to venture founders, the difference between entrepreneurs and managers on achievement motivation is substantially larger and the credibility intervals do not include zero.


Because of conflicting findings in primary studies, most scholars summarizing the literature have not identified a recognizable pattern of supportive results for a relationship between personality and entrepreneurial status, particularly differences between entrepreneurs and managers. Consequently, narrative reviewers have often concluded that personality is not a predictor of entrepreneurial behavior (e.g., Brockhaus and Horwitz 1986), and some have even suggested abandoning this avenue of research (see Perry 1990; Chell 1985). Recent meta-analyses (Collins, Hanges, and Locke 2004; Stewart and Roth 2001), however, indicate that there is value in examining personality in entrepreneur-ship, and suggest that it would be premature to abandon associated research efforts.

Theorists often aver that achievement motivation underlies the commitment and perseverance necessary for the entrepreneurial endeavor, but the empirical evidence appears conflicting (Johnson 1990). On the basis of a meta-analytic assessment of this literature, Collins, Hanges, and Locke (2004) concluded that achievement motivation is significantly correlated with entrepreneurial career choice and performance. Importantly, meta-analysis entails important judgment calls, particularly concerning theoretical clarity and breadth, and the attendant primary study inclusion decisions (Bobko and Stone-Romero 1998; Wanous, Sullivan, and Malinak 1989). Definitional issues and clear comparison groups are crucial to discerning connections between dispositions (including achievement motivation) and entrepreneurial outcomes (cf. Stewart and Roth 2004). Thus, though the Collins, Hanges, and Locke (2004) meta-analysis provides important insights into the entrepreneurial motivation literature, questions remain about the role of achievement motivation in entrepreneurial status, particularly differences in managers and entrepreneurs, because of those authors' choice of definitions and samples. Notably, Collins, Hanges, and Locke (2004) did not require venture ownership, a common minimum threshold for operationalizing the entrepreneur, in their definition of the entrepreneur, and there are individuals who are not managers in the comparison group. Finally, though Collins, Hanges, and Locke (2004) conducted their analyses both with and without multiple correlations from a single study and reported no differences, we urge caution in assumptions, in a more general sense, about the potential effects of dependent samples on meta-analytic means. These issues may pose limitations to accurately determining achievement motivation differences in entrepreneurs and managers.

We seek to clarify and extend the work of Collins, Hanges, and Locke (2004) by focusing more specifically on achievement motivation differences in entrepreneurs and managers, the most stringent (Collins, Hanges, and Locke 2004) and theoretically important comparison in addressing questions about entrepreneurial motivations, which is a key research consideration in the field (Venkataraman 1997). In examining this research stream, we use inclusion rules that produce more theoretically relevant, clear, and distinct comparison groups, enabling a more rigorous achievement motivation comparison of entrepreneurs and managers. …