Character Strengths of Entrepreneurs

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VIA signature strengths
behavioral finance
positive psychology
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Worrell, Peter R

Do seasoned successful entrepreneurs exhibit a blend of unique signature character strengths and persistence compared to the general population? If so, does it matter? In this brief preliminary study, roughly 200 adults (seasoned successful entrepreneurs and expert advisors answering for successful entrepreneur clients) completed an online survey measuring the character strengths of entrepreneurs, and measures of their consistency of interest and persistence of interest (Grit). Signature strengths are positive traits that a person owns, celebrates, and frequently exercises (Park & Peterson, 2006). The results of the preliminary study presented here illustrate that on the basis of absolute results the Top Five Character Strengths for Entrepreneurs are: Authenticity, Leadership, Fairness, Gratitude, and Zest. These are a unique cluster of distinct signature strengths, more than a simple demographic, which highlight a unique balance of strengths of the heart and the mind in individuals who are strongly “outwardly focused” (Peterson, 2006). Grit is perseverance and passion for long-term goals; working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress (Duckworth et al, 2007). Relative to the general population, entrepreneurs score high on Grit and exceptionally high on “persistence of effort.” Surprisingly, some strengths conventionally associated with entrepreneurs by the media or even by Harvard Business School (2007) like creativity, were found to be in their Bottom Five strengths. Does it matter? Ultimately readers will answer for themselves, but given the desirable social and economic outcomes that entrepreneurs produce, if we can better understand their signature character strengths and tenacity it will be useful for educators, lenders, equity investors, fledgling or “would be” entrepreneurs (including students),–even colleagues and spouses of entrepreneurs. As far as I know, this is the first research of its kind to study how the VIA Inventory of Character Strengths and the Grit Scale apply to entrepreneurs. Some of the research in this paper was the partial basis for my book Enterprise Value, published by McGraw-Hill in 2014.

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