Photo: Young Entrepreneur
The study of personality types has been a tool that has been used to help people predict their future careers. The Myers-Briggs model has been one of the most popular and just about every career has been assigned one or more preferred personality types. This tool has been used to predict success in entrepreneurship as well.Myers-Briggs model has four different dichotomies:
- Extraversion-Introversion (outward vs. inward turning)
- Sensing-Intuitiveness (preference towards concrete information or abstract concepts)
- Thinking-Feeling (tendency to solve problems through either logical reasoning or empathizing)
- Judgment/Perception (need for structure or preference for freestyle thinking)
According to this model, the preferred style for entrepreneurs is the ENTP. Entrepreneurs are focused on actions but prefer to solve their problems by thinking them through at the same time. They also prefer to focus on new ideas, challenge convention and do not limit themselves with a lot of structure.
On the surface, this model seems to be highly accurate. However, like most models, Myers-Briggs is a theory and can’t be taken at complete face value. The quest for a single, perfect personality type has blinded researchers to the possibility that a mixture of traits may be necessary for success in business.
For example, a purely extroverted style is not necessarily ideal for all types of business. True, entrepreneurs must be proactive and enthusiastic about selling themselves. They must show that they are confident so others will see them as leaders. On the other hand, starting a business also takes a great deal of research and a lot of the planning needs to be conducted in isolation. Purely extroverted entrepreneurs may have a difficult time with this, so an entrepreneur probably needs some introverted traits as well to succeed.
It is also easy to jump to the conclusion that entrepreneurs must be entirely focused on dreams and aspirations and must constantly be thinking about how to achieve them. We often forget that decisions are usually made by analysing solid data just as we forget that true leaders need to be able to empathise with their followers (except for narcissists who use purely coercive leadership styles like Stalin, which are usually worthless in the long run).
The last dichotomy of the Myers-Briggs personality model for entrepreneurs may spark the most controversy of all, because it is the one that many entrepreneurs are most resistant to changing. According to experts, most entrepreneurs are terrible with structure. They prefer to manage their time passively and don’t like organisation at all.
Personally, I find the last element of the model a little confusing. I thought that ENTJs would be the most successful entrepreneurs. Being successful in entrepreneurship or business in general should require a high degree of organisation, but the PhDs out there disagreed with my perception.
I think that this element of the personality model is the one where entrepreneurs tend to split their attention more than any of the others, because there is a huge debate within the entrepreneurial community as to whether or not business plans are an asset or a crutch to launching a business.
In the end, anyone can be successful as an entrepreneur regardless of what personality type they have. Models such as Myers-Briggs are meant only to be predictive models, not absolutes in determining career success.
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