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Narcissism is associated with entrepreneurial intention but not business success

New research published in the Journal of Business Venturing Insights sheds light on the relationship between narcissistic personality traits and entrepreneurship. The findings indicate that narcissism “is a mixed blessing.”

“Mental health symptoms such as ADHD and autism have traditionally been labeled in a negative light. However, there is increasing evidence that individuals characterized with these symptoms can excel in certain work environments that have a good person-job fit with them,” said study author Yik Kiu Leung, an assistant professor of entrepreneurship at Tilburg University.

“Since the characteristics of narcissism, such as the need for attention, admiration, and power fit well with the work environment of entrepreneurship, we think it is important to extend previous literature and provide a systematic overview of the link between narcissism and various aspects of entrepreneurship.”

The researchers examined data from six independent samples of individuals from France, Japan, and the Netherlands who were completed assessments of narcissistic traits and several facets of entrepreneurship. The samples included college students, salaried workers, and business owners.

The study examined narcissistic traits, which are present at some level in everyone, rather than narcissistic personality disorder, a diagnosable mental health condition.

Leung and his colleagues found a positive relationship between narcissism and entrepreneurial intention. In other words, more narcissistic individuals were more likely to agree with statements such as “I am ready to do anything to be an entrepreneur.” Narcissistic traits were also positively associated with having an entrepreneurial orientation.

But there appeared to be little association between narcissism and business success. Narcissistic traits were not associated with an business owners’ number of employees or expected business growth. However, more narcissistic individuals did report that their businesses were performing better compared to their main competitors.

“Using data from about 5,000 thousand respondents, we found a positive link between narcissism and intention to become an entrepreneur as well as a tendency to act like an entrepreneur (i.e., risk-taking, proactive, and innovative),” Leung told PsyPost.

“It is also worth noting that while we found no clear linkage between narcissism and business success, entrepreneurs who have a higher level of narcissistic tendency reported a higher level of well-being, such as life satisfaction.”

In previous research, Leung found that narcissistic entrepreneurs were less likely to learn from business failures compared to their less narcissistic counterparts. This could help explain why narcissistic entrepreneurs are not more successful, despite having a more entrepreneurial orientation.

But the new study — like all research — includes some limitations.

“Since self-report data is used, our findings may suffer response bias,” Leung explained. “However, we found no clear evidence that this is the case. Furthermore, the nature of our data does not allow us to draw any causal link between narcissism and entrepreneurship.”

The study, “Narcissism and entrepreneurship: Evidence from six datasets“, was authored by Yik Kiu Leung, Ingmar Franken, Roy Thurik, Martijn Driessen, Katsuyuki Kamei, Olivier Torres, and Ingrid Verheul.


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