Academic journal article Academy of Entrepreneurship Journal

The Five-Factor Model of Personality: Assessing Entrepreneurs and Managers

Academic journal article Academy of Entrepreneurship Journal

The Five-Factor Model of Personality: Assessing Entrepreneurs and Managers

Article excerpt


The word entrepreneur has existed for more than 250 years; however, entrepreneurism was not a well-respected career in United States until the 1980s. People like Sam Walton and Bill Gates suddenly brought appeal and status to the word entrepreneur. Attention quickly focused on identifying the entrepreneurial personality.

Today, researchers still attempt to discover personality characteristics and behaviors that distinguish entrepreneurs from other people, most typically managers. A few personality traits that recur in the entrepreneurship literature more often than others traits include the need for achievement (e.g. McClelland, 1961; Glennon, 1966; Hornaday & Aboud, 1971; Robinson, Stimpson, Huefner & Hunt, 1991), the propensity to take risks (e.g. Mill, 1848; Ginzberg, 1955; McClelland, 1961; Timmons, 1978; Welsh & White, 1981), and internal locus of control (e.g. Borland, 1974; Brockhaus, 1982; Timmons, 1978).

The purpose of this paper is to continue the study of entrepreneurs' personality traits. However, attention is shifted from the commonly studied aforementioned traits to the Five-Factor Model of personality (Goldberg, 1990; Goldberg, 1992; Goldberg, Sweeney, Merenda, & Hughes, 1998), which has recently emerged from the field of psychology into business applications. The paper compares entrepreneurs to managers on each of the five factors. First, we describe Five-Factor Model and discuss its recent applications to business research. Next, we review research findings that compare entrepreneurs to managers and suggest hypotheses regarding the Five-Factor model. Then, we describe our research methodology. Finally, we discuss results of the study and draw conclusions.


With some controversy in the psychological community, the Five-Factor Model (also referred to as the Big Five) emerged in recent years as a "robust model" or "Great Theory" of personality. While a discussion of the theoretical arguments pertaining to the Five-Factor Model is beyond the scope of this paper, its proponents believe that the model is robust in that the personality of every human being, regardless of his or her culture, can be described utilizing the five dimensions (see Costa & McCrae, 1995; Digman, 1990; Goldberg, 1990, 1992; Goldberg, Sweeney, Merenda, & Hughes, 1998; Wideger & Trull, 1997).

Disagreement exists regarding the exact vocabulary of the five factors (or superfactors); however, conceptually, the factors are these: (1) adjustment (on a continuum from stable to neurotic), (2) sociability (from extroverted to introverted), (3) intellectual openness (from imaginative and interested in many things to practical and narrowly focused), (4) agreeableness (from benevolent to belligerent), and (5) conscientiousness (from dependable and goal-oriented to undependable and impulsive). The interest of psychologists is not in describing a universal "right" personality (there is none), but rather in examining a person's "score" on each of the five factors in conjunction with other factors (e.g., education, age, gender, job). The Five-Factor Model as it is used in business research is illustrated in Figure 1 below:

The Five-Factor Model in Business Research

Recently, researchers have reported Five-Factor Model results contain implications for the workplace. In jobs involving personal interactions, one study reported that the factors of conscientiousness, agreeableness, and adjustment were related to job performance. Not surprisingly, emotional stability and agreeableness were found to be especially important in jobs involving teamwork (Mount, Barrick, & Stewart, 1998).

With business franchise owners as subjects, Morrison (1997) examined the relationships between the Five-Factor Model and other psychological constructs (e.g., Self-Monitoring, Type A Behavior, Locus of Control, and Subjective Well-being). …

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