Academic journal article Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice

Response to "Research on the Dark Side of Personality Traits in Entrepreneurship: Observations from an Organizational Behavior Perspective"

Academic journal article Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice

Response to "Research on the Dark Side of Personality Traits in Entrepreneurship: Observations from an Organizational Behavior Perspective"

Article excerpt

As I am in full accord with De Nisi's (2015) commentary on my essay (Miller, 2014), this response will be directed mostly toward that of Klotz and Neubaum (2015) [N&K], I also agree substantially with many of the points made by N&K and with the directions they propose for furthering work in entrepreneurship. First, I heartily endorse the message that it is important to identify different types of entrepreneurial personality characteristics, positive and negative. Moreover, exploring the relationships between these characteristics, their evolution, and their organizational context would indeed be beneficial. Finally, there is little doubt that studying entrepreneurial management teams, the variations and interactions that occur therein, and their impact on firm behavior and performance, would be highly desirable. Certainly, there is much in N&K's essay to commend.

However, N&K have in a few instances made points with which I remain in disagreement and others where they appear to have misread my position. Therefore, in the interests of clarity I shall respond. Where appropriate I employ their section titles in what follows.

Multifaceted, Not Janus-Faced Personalities of Entrepreneurs

Personalities are indeed multifaceted and entrepreneurs, like all of us, will vary along the dimensions I have listed, as well as many others. Having said that, there is already evidence that entrepreneurs do gravitate toward certain polarities along dimensions such as locus of control (Green, David, & Dent, 1996; Miller, Kets de Vries, & Toulouse, 1982), need for achievement (Kraus, Frese, Friedrich, & Unger, 2005; Miller & Droge, 1986; Miller & Toulouse, 1986; Rauch & Frese, 2007), risk propensity (Hayward, Forster, Sarasvathy, & Fredrickson, 2010; Kraus et al.), personal initiative and self-efficacy (Rauch & Frese) and others, and these tendencies are instructive descriptively, and perhaps normatively (see, for example, Begley & Boyd, 1988; Hmieleski & Baron, 2009; Kets de Vries, 1977; Korunka, Frank, Lueger, & Mugler, 2003; Lee & Tsang, 2001; Rauch & Frese).

The Big Five dimensions have received a good deal of attention and support in the personality literature, and these may indeed serve as useful bases for studying entrepreneurial personality traits (Digman, 1990). However, the pejorative qualities on my Table 1 (Miller, 2014) are not well captured by the Big Five, which has been criticized as gauging "the personality of the stranger" (McAdams, 1995; McAdams & Pals, 2006, Paunonen, Haddock, Forsterling, & Keinonen, 2003). The Big Five fails to reflect manipulativeness, Machiavellianism, egotism, risk taking, and other characteristics that may be quite relevant to entrepreneurial behavior (Block, 1995; McAdams & Pals; Paunonen & Jackson, 2000; Thayer, 1989; van der Linden, te Nijenhuis, & Bakker, 2010). (1) There is, in addition, dissatisfaction regarding the lack of any theory behind the Big Five, which might account in part for these gaps (see, for example, Eysenck, 1992; van der linden et al.).

The positive and negative qualities I wrote about represent thematically related characteristic adaptations, that is desires, beliefs, and coping mechanisms (McAdams & Pals, 2006) (2): for example, a desire for control versus an obsession with it, or need for achievement versus ruthlessness in its enactment. Such adaptations and the affect accompanying them (energy, optimism; Thayer, 1989) are beyond the focus of the Big Five--a point made clear by Big Five pioneers McCrae and Costa (2013).

Moreover, in using the term Janus-faced I did not wish to imply that the positive characteristics of the entrepreneur listed on the left-hand side of my Table 1 (need for achievement, energy, optimism, etc.) must lie on the same psychometrically derived Big Five dimensions as those negative ones listed on the right-hand side of the table. …

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