The entrepreneurial personality

I was reading accounts about the allegations of misuse of funds in Conrad Black’s trial, and had a sense of déjà vu. Now, I have no idea as to whether there is any substance in the allegations, and I do not intend to comment on them. But the description of Black’s alleged excesses could have fitted any number of disgraced executives, from Kenneth Lay, Christopher Skase, Rodney Adler, Alan Bond, Robert Maxwell…that’s a few off the top of my head, but I’m sure you can think of others who fit the bill.

This got me wondering: is there an “entrepreneurial personality”? I suspect that there is. Such people succeed where others would fail because of their almost preternatural belief in their abilities and their entitlement to success. However, my theory is that the entrepreneurial personality is unable to face up to reality when things go bad. The sense of self-belief which helps such people to power becomes a massive liability when things go bad. Instead of facing up to the iniquity of their actions, entrepreneurs will continue to believe that they are right, and that they are entitled to behave as they please and live in the lap of luxury.

If I found myself in that kind of position, I would be curled up in a foetal position under my bed, whereas an entrepreneur would be drinking Dom Perignon in his private jet. Moreover, an entrepreneur would still be protesting his innocence years later. I have always been fascinated by the endless capacity that people have for self-delusion, but it seems to me that a measure of self-delusion is often necessary to entrepreneurial success…and pivotal to entrepreneurial downfall.

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