Is emotional intelligence predictive of entrepreneurial success?

Brien C Walton, University of Pennsylvania


There are more self-made, billionaire entrepreneurs than billionaires who simply inherited their fortunes, but the majority of startup ventures fail within five years. A possible factor in business success or failure could be the emotional intelligence (EI) level of the entrepreneur, defined broadly as the ability to perceive, interpret, and manage emotions. Although there is substantial literature on EI applications in established organizations, there are few empirical studies exploring the predictive value of EI in the context of success for startup entrepreneurs. The purpose of this study was to determine whether EI scores can predict how successful an entrepreneur will be using objective success criteria, as defined in this study (Hypothesis 1), and which, if any, EI competencies are particularly relevant for entrepreneurs (Hypothesis 2). Hypotheses were tested using Spearman correlation and Ordinal regression, with sensitivity testing with Pearson correlation and Ordinary Least Squares regression, respectively. Each analysis controlled for the entrepreneur’s demographic profile and subjective success measures. Regression analysis (n=31); ordinal analysis and correlation analysis revealed a statistically significant effect of only one of the 15 EI scores (Empathy) on entrepreneurial success, as defined in this study, but the exponentiated coefficients from the ordinal regression indicate that improving Overall EI scores can increase Overall Success. Specifically, six of the 15 EI scores were more than two times more likely to increase Overall Success scores (Empathy, Interpersonal Relationships, Social Responsibility, Flexibility, Stress Tolerance, and Optimism), which is consistent with Hypothesis 2. This study is one of the first to empirically examine the EI construct in the context of entrepreneurial success with a population of entrepreneurs seeking assistance using the EQ-i 2.0 emotional intelligence assessment. A key implication of the results is that teachers, emergency services personnel, legal and financial services personnel, even sports coaches and single parents, can all develop competencies to make them more successful in their chosen endeavor, have a sense of fulfillment, and increase the success rate of industries that go far beyond entrepreneurs.

Subject Area

Behavioral psychology|Entrepreneurship|Organizational behavior

Recommended Citation

Walton, Brien C, "Is emotional intelligence predictive of entrepreneurial success?" (2016). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI10158700.