Is there an ideal personality type for entrepreneurs?
Well, I don’t think so. How depressing would that be for the rest of us?! Imagine having a great business idea, plan or invention and being told you weren’t X, Y or Z enough to put it into action.
Nope, I believe that we all have personal characteristics that can be strengths or weaknesses in entrepreneurship, and it all comes down to how we manage them.
By choosing to maximise your strengths and accommodate your weaknesses, you can adapt any personality type to transform yourself into a successful entrepreneur.
So, what are personality types?
There’s seems to be an unlimited number of personality quizzes out there, none of which are without their criticisms (no, I’m afraid that Buzzfeed one that told you what flavour of pringle you were was not faultless…).
Nevertheless, some are more popular and respected than others. Two of the most commonly regarded personality assessments are the Enneagram and the Myers-Briggs tests.
Now, you might have your doubts about these tests, and that is fully understandable.
I myself had my doubts, and was surprised by how much I could relate to my results. What I think is important is that we don’t try to use these results to change the way we are, or see them as something we have to consistently live up to.
What each individual draws from their results is unique to them, but for me it is simply critical self-awareness. Rather than conform to or try and change my type, I choose to reflect on the aspects I relate to and see how I can manage my strengths and weaknesses through my own rational thought.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE ENNEAGRAM AND MYERS-BRIGGS
Many people put their faith firmly in one camp or the other when it comes to the Enneagram versus Myers-Briggs debate, but despite some potential similarities and overlap, they do tell us different things about ourselves.
The Enneagram test was designed with nurture in mind, and dives deep into understanding childhood circumstances and their contribution to our deepest emotional responses and coping mechanisms.
The 9 Enneagram personalities categorise the mindsets that we have built into our way of being in the world.
The 16 Myers-Briggs types on the other hand, identify the processes through which we interpret and choose our path.
Although these may sound similar, the Enneagram takes an internal focus while Myers-Briggs is more about how we interact with our external environment. It considers nature more than nurture, in that it assumes that the tendencies of our specific personality type define how we perceive information and make choices based on these perspectives.
THE ENNEAGRAM TEST
The Enneagram test was originally designed in the 1900s as a way of profiling the human psyche.
At its most basic, it determines 9 core personality types, but further refinement by contemporary psychologists has developed a much fuller, interconnected system.
This framework assumes that people are born with a dominant, unchanging personality type, which is adapted through childhood experience to form the ‘why’ of our actions by understanding desires, fears and traumas.
The 9 personality types of the Enneagram are divided between three ‘centres’ – the instinctive, the feeling and the thinking. Each numerical personality type has its strengths and weaknesses based on one of these three centres.
Each centre is most affected by a particular emotion. The personality types that fall within the instinctive centre (1s, 8s and 9s) are most affected by feelings of anger, those in the feeling centre (2s, 3s and 4s) by shame and those in the thinking centre (5s, 6s and 7s) by fear.
The Enneagram does allows for some overlap in these personality types, by assessing an individual’s dominant type alongside their ‘wing’. Your wing is the type which comes alongside your dominant type, adding complimentary, or contradictory, elements to your personality.
There are several free tests available online if you’re keen to learn what type, centre and wing you fall into.
THE ENNEAGRAM FOR ENTREPRENEURS
Personality assessments are often used to provide career recommendations. Does this mean that certain Enneagram types may be better suited to entrepreneurship?
Each Enneagram type has its merits, for example the self-control and perfectionism of type one ‘reformers’, the ambition and work ethic of type three ‘achievers’ or the perceptive, innovative nature of type five ‘investigators’.
In reading through their brief descriptions, certain Enneagrams may leap out as having qualities more suited to entrepreneurship.
However, examples of extremely successful entrepreneurs can be found for each of the Enneagram types.
I myself am an ‘individualist’ – type four in the Enneagram system. Type fours are described as being expressive, temperamental, sensitive and withdrawn.
At first glance, these don’t really sound most beneficial characteristics for a budding entrepreneur…
So, through the Enneagram, I now understand the limitations of my emotionality – such as my consistent despair as I compare myself to others, my sentimental reflection on past mistakes or my obsession with what others think of me.
While on the one hand I may be an emotional riot, on the other are the strengths of the Individualist.
I can identify with the type 4’s unrivalled connection to their passion, developed capacity to understand the feelings of others, strong commitment to authenticity and high levels of creative vision.
Now that’s starting to look a bit better.
Drawing on my strengths, I am able to focus on realising my creativity through staying authentic in each moment and considering how my heartfelt message can inspire others by relating to their perspective.
I can also keep my vices in check by ensuring my mind is in the current moment and by rationalising the value I place on others’ thoughts and achievements.
So we see how the Enneagram can help us to make better entrepreneurs of ourselves by alerting us to our most useful traits while warning us of how we may be holding ourselves back.
To learn more about what your Enneagram could mean for your entrepreneurship, I highly recommend checking out www.enneagramforentrepreneurs.com.
THE MYERS-BRIGGS TEST
The Myers-Briggs test is based on the work of psychoanalyst, Carl Jung. Despite facing criticism, as any personality test does, it is the most commonly used personality assessment by British businesses.
There are many of the Myers-Briggs tests which can be taken for free online, based on the 93 questions of the official version.
These 93 questions identify the tendencies of individuals on four different scales, with the results combining to make up one of 16 personality types.
The four scales are:
- Extraversion – Intraversion (E or I) – The level of comfort and motivation we have in interacting with others, with extroverts being more confident, outward-looking and socially interactive while introverts are self-oriented and prefer deeper, thoughtful interaction.
- Sensing – Intuition (S or N) – Whether we perceive the world through realities taken in by our senses or through seeing patterns, acknowledging abstract perspectives and envisioning the future.
- Thinking – Feeling (T or F) – Whether we make decisions based on rational thought processes and defined facts or on the emotions and inclinations of ourselves and others.
- Judging – Perceiving (J or P) – The level of structure we value, with judging individuals preferring firm decisions and plans while perceiving people enjoy more flexibility.
Every individual can move around on each of the four scales depending on circumstance, but their Myers-Briggs personality type labels the four points they are most regularly inclined towards.
The 16 types are therefore named as a series of four letters, defining a combination of dominant traits, for example, ISTJ or ENFP.
MYERS-BRIGGS FOR ENTREPRENEURS
Research has found that the most typical personality types of successful entrepreneurs are ENTP, ESTJ, ENTJ, INTJ and ISTJ.
Immediately noticeable is that each of these personality types falls on the Thinking rather than Feeling end of the spectrum, suggesting that most successful entrepreneurs make plans and choices based on objective information.
Another common, though not exclusive, characteristic is Judging rather than Perceiving, indicating a tendency of successful entrepreneurs towards having solid structure in their plans and decision making.
While I’m sure these characteristics can have wonderful benefits in entrepreneurship, it seems a tad dismissive to presume they are necessarily the ‘best’.
I’ve taken a few different Myers-Briggs tests over the years. My results have been consistent in the last three characteristics (NFJ), but I seem to switch between extroversion and introversion.
I’d say these results pretty accurate and relatable, both the stable NFJ characteristics and the fluctuating E vs I.
Whether an ENFJ or an INFJ, I definitely don’t fall into those five categories defined as being most common in successful entrepreneurs.
Should I be disheartened? Should I try and alter the way I perceive the world and make my decisions within it?
Well, I don’t think so.
As with the Enneagram discussed above, in identifying my personality type through the Myers-Briggs test, I gain information about myself, my strengths and my weaknesses.
With my NFJ personality, I am empathetic and organised and am able to visualise abstract ideas, interpret the feelings of others and commit to firm plans.
When in Extrovert mode, I can use this empathetic understanding and appreciation of the world’s mystery to inspire others and bring consensus among groups. When feeling more introverted I can dedicate my time to self reflection and creating deeper, more thoughtful connections.
These are all strengths which can be maximised in entrepreneurship by contributing to the authenticity and innovation of the message I put out, and the way I communicate it to others in ways whic relate.
My Myers-Briggs personality type also indicates some drawbacks I may face as a budding entrepreneur.
My strong tendency towards Feeling over Thinking means I place a great deal of emphasis on how I feel about myself, and I often assume that others are thinking negatively of me without considering any evidence to the contrary.
As an intuitive, I’m also in the habit of getting carried away with idealistic vision and forgetting to consider the minor details and realities that should be taken into account. I can often be guilty of moving too quickly or making big decisions without really thinking through the finer aspects.
In recognising these limitations, I can take steps to manage them. For example, I can remind myself that I don’t know what others are thinking of me and start focusing on more reliable feedback mechanisms which are more stable in controlling my emotions around ‘failure’.
I can also make sure I break down my decision-making process and get everything in order instead of taking leaps of faith based on gut feelings alone.
Through understanding and working with your Myers-Briggs type, you’ll find ways to build your entrepreneurial personality in alignment with your natural tendencies, allowing you to fulfill your potential while remaining true to yourself.
Entrepreneurs come from a range of different backgrounds, go into a range of different industries, make a range of different decisions, and have a range of very different impacts.
So how could they possibly share the same personality type?
We all have our strengths, and we can all be entrepreneurs. What matters most is our self-awareness and our ability to understand and improve ourselves in a way that aligns with our purpose and vision.
So, the ideal personality type for YOU as an entrepreneur is… YOUR OWN! Happy days. Now we’ve sorted that one out, I encourage you to go forth, enjoy learning about yourself, and see how you develop along your entrepreneurial journey!