Entrepreneurial personality: The role of narcissism
, Étienne St-Jean
Universite du Quebec a Trois-Rivieres, Canada
Received 24 January 2013
Received in revised form 4 April 2013
Accepted 24 April 2013
Available online 29 May 2013
Locus of control
Research has established a number of personality features and behaviours associated with business cre-
ation and success. The similarities between these traits and narcissism, a concept with roots in clinical
psychology and psychiatry, led the authors to conduct this study, which proposes to measure whether
entrepreneurs score higher on a narcissism scale than other vocational groups. The second goal of this
study is to measure the role of narcissism on intention to start a business. Student entrepreneurs have
been compared with non-entrepreneur students, city workers, and employees and managers from a
branch of a large ﬁnancial institution. Then, students ﬁlled out measures of general self-efﬁcacy, locus
of control and risk propensity as well as a narcissism scale. Results indicate that student entrepreneurs
score signiﬁcantly higher than all other vocational groups on a measure of narcissism. Results also indi-
cate that narcissism is positively correlated with general self-efﬁcacy, locus of control and risk propen-
sity. Moreover, narcissism plays a signiﬁcant role in explaining entrepreneurial intentions, even after
controlling for self-efﬁcacy, locus of control and risk propensity. Overall, these ﬁndings shed new light
on the underlying personality traits of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial intentions and suggest new
directions in the study of entrepreneurs’ personality proﬁle.
Ó2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Career choice theory (Holland, 1997) and person-environment
ﬁt theory (Judge & Kristof-Brown, 2004) stipulate that individuals
chose careers and work environments that best ﬁt their values,
needs and personality. Narcissistic individuals fantasize about
fame and power (Raskin & Novacek, 1991); see themselves as more
intelligent and attractive (Gabriel, Critelli, & Ee, 1994) and are in
constant search of admiration and superiority (Morf & Rhodewalt,
2001). Narcissists are attracted to celebrity (Young & Pinsky, 2006)
and tasks that support their superiority to others in a competitive
way (Morf, Weir, & Davidov, 2000). In fact, not surprisingly, narcis-
sists seem to seek out leadership positions in organizations
(Campbell & Campbell, 2009) and what better position for leader-
ship and power than owning a business? It is well recognized that
entrepreneurship fosters the myth of generating wealth, among
entrepreneurs and in society in general (Shane, 2009).
Consequently, entrepreneurship could attract individuals with
greater narcissistic personality than other vocational choices.
However, to our knowledge, narcissism in entrepreneurs has never
been empirically studied.
This study proposes to test whether entrepreneurs are more
narcissistic than other vocational groups. Furthermore, our study
measures the role of narcissism in explaining entrepreneurial
intentions. We think that bridging clinical and personality psychol-
ogy with entrepreneurial studies may help shed light into the
study of ‘‘who is the entrepreneur’’ and better understand the
underlying personality construct related to well-studied entrepre-
neurial personality traits.
1.1. Entrepreneurs and narcissism
Entrepreneurs and narcissists share many traits in the Big Five-
Factor model (high extraversion and openness to experience, low
neuroticism and agreeableness) (Brandstätter, 2011; Paulhus &
Williams, 2002). Of the personality traits that have been most
studied in relation to entrepreneurship, we ﬁnd risk propensity,
self-efﬁcacy and locus of control. Results of a meta-analysis on per-
sonality traits and entrepreneurial intentions showed that risk pro-
pensity yielded the largest effect size (Zhao, Seibert, & Lumpkin,
2010). In their meta-analysis, Stewart and Roth (2001) report that
entrepreneurs score signiﬁcantly higher than managers on risk
propensity. Many studies have linked high risk propensity behav-
iours to narcissism (Foster, Misra, & Reidy, 2009; Lakey, Rose,
Campbell, & Goodie, 2008). This could be related to the fact that
narcissists are focused on success and achievement, and are not
0191-8869/$ - see front matter Ó2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Corresponding author. Address: Business Department, Universite du Quebec a
Trois-Rivieres, P.O. Box 500, Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, Canada G9A 5H7.
E-mail address: Cynthia.firstname.lastname@example.org (C. Mathieu).
Personality and Individual Differences 55 (2013) 527–531
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afraid of failure (Elliot & Thrash, 2001). A study by Foster,
Shenesey, and Goff (2009), reports that narcissistic individuals
are more prone to risk-taking and differ from non-narcissistic indi-
viduals in that they perceive greater beneﬁts deriving from risky
behaviours. It seems that the display of overconﬁdence (and per-
haps the appeal of power and success) may affect the rational eval-
uation of risk-taking in narcissistic individuals. Note here that
literature has proven that entrepreneurs show higher degrees of
overconﬁdence when compared with managers (Koellinger,
Minniti, & Schade, 2007).
Self-efﬁcacy refers to the belief that an individual has it in his or
her ability to accomplish speciﬁc tasks undertaken (Bandura,
1997). One’s perception of self-efﬁcacy does not depend on the
number of skills one possesses, but in the belief of what one is able
to do with one’s own skills in a variety of situations. Individuals
who present high generalized self-efﬁcacy have higher hopes of
success (Heckhausen & Schulz, 1995). High levels of generalized
self-efﬁcacy have also been associated with business creation
(Dimov, 2010; Poon, Ainuddin, & Junit, 2006). (Chen, Greene, &
Crick, 1998) have found that students who manifested entrepre-
neurial intentions scored higher on a measure of entrepreneurial
self-efﬁcacy than students who did not have entrepreneurial inten-
tions. Narcissistic individuals, have inﬂated views of their abilities
(Campbell, Hoffman, Campbell, & Marchisio, 2011), and think that
they are special and unique (APA, 2000) and their primary motive
for action is self-enhancement and a sense of entitlement (Camp-
bell, Bonacci, Shelton, Exline, & Bushman, 2004). Furthermore,
even when faced with opposing facts, it seems that individuals
high on narcissism still consider that they do better than others,
and predict that they would do better than others in similar tasks
in the future (Campbell, Goodie, & Foster, 2004).
Internal locus of control (LOC) refers to the belief that one is in
control of his own destiny (Rotter, 1966). Because, by deﬁnition,
entrepreneurs are individuals who chose to ‘‘control’’ their career
by creating, and managing their own business, it is not surprising
to ﬁnd that LOC has been vastly studied in relation to entrepre-
neurial intention (Mueller & Thomas, 2001). However, results have
yielded somewhat conﬂicting results; while some have found a po-
sitive link, others have found no evidence of a link (Chell, 2008).
Nevertheless, in a meta-analysis on 20 studies, Rauch and Frese
(2005) have found a small but signiﬁcant difference between busi-
ness owners and non-owners and a positive correlation between
LOC and business success. There is reason to postulate that narcis-
sistic individuals who we hypothesized have high self-efﬁcacy,
would also believe that they are in control of their destiny and thus
present an elevated internal LOC.
In sum, the overlap between entrepreneurial literature and lit-
erature on narcissism leads to the possibility that narcissism could
very well be an underlying construct explaining entrepreneurship.
Consequently, we propose that entrepreneurs are more narcissistic
than other vocational groups (Hypothesis 1).
1.2. The role of narcissism in entrepreneurial intentions
Entrepreneurial intentions have been associated with entrepre-
neurial self-efﬁcacy (Chen et al., 1998; Zhao, Seibert, & Hills, 2005)
and risk propensity (Zhao et al., 2010). Chen et al. (1998), report
that self-efﬁcacy may explain entrepreneurial avoidance in the fact
that there may be individuals who avoid starting a business not be-
cause they lack necessary skills but because they think they do. On
the contrary, if we look at narcissists who tend inﬂated views of
their abilities (Campbell et al., 2011), we could hypothesize that
they would think they have the necessary skills to start a business
(even though, in reality, they may not). Hence, we suggest that nar-
cissism will inﬂuence entrepreneurial intentions (Hypothesis 2).
2. Material and methods
2.1. Participants and procedure
Data for this research came from three separate projects. For the
ﬁrst project, university students were asked to ﬁll out a survey as
part of a larger-scale longitudinal study concerning the choice of
the career as an entrepreneur. The survey was conducted online.
In total, 1572 students accepted the invitation, and 89% of them
were enrolled from Universities across Quebec, Canada. From this
ﬁrst wave, 655 students took part in the sixth-month follow-up
in which several personality measures were included, such as
To test the ﬁrst hypothesis, from this second wave, two groups
were created. First, we have grouped university students who had
been entrepreneurs in the past or who are currently entrepreneurs
(n= 108). This group will be subsequently called the ‘‘entrepreneur-
ial student sample’’. Secondly, we selected students who had never
been entrepreneurs in the past, who are not entrepreneurs now or
in the process of starting a business. Out of these, we grouped those
who answered ‘‘not at all’’ to the following question: ‘‘Do you in-
tend to start a business in the future’’. Since the survey was geared
towards choosing an entrepreneurial career, we wanted to avoid
the thematic-biased respondents, and retain only those students
who not only had never been an entrepreneur, but also who did
not plan to become one in the future. A total of 73 students ﬁt this
proﬁle and this sample will be referred to as the ‘‘student’’ sample.
Data for the two other groups came from two studies that are
part of a larger investigation on the effects of personality disorders
in the workplace. The ﬁrst group consisted of 98 employees and
managers from a large Canadian ﬁnancial institution who com-
pleted an online survey during work hours (response rate of
85.3%). Data from the second group were collected from 116
white-collar workers and managers working for a public organiza-
tion (response rate of 91.5%). They ﬁlled out a paper–pencil survey
during work hours.
As can be seen in Table 1, the sex distribution of respondents
was comparable between the ‘‘city’’ and ‘‘entrepreneurial student’’
samples, and between the ‘‘bank’’ and ‘‘student’’ samples. How-
ever, mean age was different between groups (ttest, p60.000),
as was expected since we compared student samples and organiza-
tional samples. Furthermore, it is not surprising to ﬁnd a different
distribution for levels of education. Nevertheless, no signiﬁcant
distribution differences could be found between the ‘‘student’’
and the ‘‘entrepreneurial student’’ samples, or between the ‘‘city’’
and ‘‘bank’’ samples.
The second wave sample of students was also used to test the
relationship between narcissism and intention to start a business
Narcissism was measured using a short version of the Narcissis-
tic Personality inventory (NPI-16; Ames, Rose, & Anderson, 2006).
Descriptive statistic of the four samples.
City Bank Student Entrepreneur
Men 52.5% 14.3% 11.8% 52.8%
Women 47.5% 85.7% 82.2% 47.2%
Mean age (S.D) 44.7 (8.93) 40.6 (12.14) 24.3 (4.05) 32.5 (10.46)
High school 11.4% 36% 0% 0%
College 58.1% 46% 0% 0%
Undergraduate 24.8% 18% 62.3% 59.4%
Graduate 5.7% 0% 37.7% 40.6%
528 C. Mathieu, É. St-Jean / Personality and Individual Differences 55 (2013) 527–531
Each item presents two statements and the participant must
choose the one that best describes him or her. The narcissistic
statements were coded 1 whereas the ‘‘non-narcissistic’’ state-
ments were coded 0, and the 16 items are added together, for a to-
tal score ranging from 0 to 16. All three samples of the present
study showed acceptable level of internal consistency on NPI-16
with Cronbach’s Alphas of 0.69 for the student sample; 0.66 for city
workers and 0.69 for ﬁnancial industry employees.
2.2.2. Intention to start a business
A modiﬁed version of the measure developed by Thompson
(2009) was used by adding an item to capture the intention to
buy a new business (instead of creating one from the ground up)
(seven items). A 7-point Likert scale was used, and items are, for
example, ‘‘I save money to start a new business’’, ‘‘I don’t have
plans to start my new business (reversed)’’, and ‘‘I have the inten-
tion to start a new business in the future’’. Cronbach’s Alpha for
this measure is 0.87.
2.2.3. General self-efﬁcacy
For the general self-efﬁcacy scale (GSE), we used the measure
developed by Schwarzer and Jerusalem (1995), containing ten
items and measured using a 7-point Likert scale. Items are, for
example, ‘‘I can always solve difﬁcult problems if I try hard en-
ough’’, ‘‘It is easy for me to stay concentrated on my goals and
achieve them’’, and ‘‘I can remain calm when faced with difﬁculties
because I can rely on my coping skills’’. Cronbach’s Alpha is 0.91.
2.2.4. Risk propensity
We measured risk-taking attitude with the instrument devel-
oped by Dohmen et al. (2005). In a scale from 0 = No willingness
to take risks to 10-Complete and full willingness to take risks, respon-
dents note their willingness to take risks in six different situations
(driving a car, in your career, in ﬁnancial decisions, etc.). The last
item asks the amount of money, from a hypothetical lottery gain
of 100,000$, one is willing to invest in a project that has a 50%
chance to double the initial amount and a 50% chance to lose half
of the initial amount (from 0 to 100,000$, steps of 10,000$). Cron-
bach’s Alpha for this instrument is 0.76.
2.2.5. Locus of control
We measured the locus of control using the scale developed by
Paulhus (1983). Instead of measuring a general locus of control,
this author proposed three different spheres of control, namely
personal, interpersonal, and socio-political. We used the personal
sphere of control (PSC) that consists of 10 items (e.g. Competition
discourages excellence; When I get what I want it’s usually be-
cause I worked hard for it, etc.), with a seven-point Likert scale.
Cronbach’s Alpha is 0.73.
We included control measures that can inﬂuence the intention
to start a business: sex, age, number of children. We also added the
ability to obtain funds to start a business (Likert 5) and also how
long one can maintain their standard of living without any sources
of revenues, both measures to assess wealth of the individual.
Using self-reported data, measuring both predictors and depen-
dent variables may result in common method variance (CMV)
(Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Lee, & Podsakoff, 2003). To reduce possibil-
ity of CMV, we ﬁrst insured conﬁdentiality to each respondent in
order to reduce social desirability, respondent leniency, and taking
on perceptions consistent with the researchers’ objectives
(Podsakoff et al., 2003). Also, PSC and Intention to start a business
have negative wording and NPI-16 contains binary statements
(instead of Likert-type scale), which are two solutions for reducing
CMV (Podsakoff et al., 2003). We performed Harman’s single factor
test as a post hoc test. This procedure involves conducting an unro-
tated exploratory factor analysis on all of the items collected for
this study (excluding socio-demographic items). Results indicated
that our data converges into 13 factors, and that the ﬁrst one ex-
plains only 18.9% of the variance. All combined, this strongly sug-
gests that risks of CMV are reduced with our data.
To determine between-group differences (Hypothesis 1), we
conducted an ANOVA with post hoc comparison. Levene’s test indi-
cated that the variances are not homogeneous (p= 0.001). Conse-
quently, we used the Tamhane’s T2 and the Games–Howell tests,
which are more restrictive in that situation. To test the relationship
between narcissism and intention to start a business (Hypothesis
2), we have conducted hierarchical regression analyses. In the ﬁrst
step, we entered control variables only. Then we tested models
with control variables and adding only one variable from entrepre-
neurial traits (narcissism, GSE, Risk-taking and LOC). Model 6 in-
cludes control variables and all trait variables except for
narcissism. For the ﬁnal model, we added narcissism to the previ-
ous personality traits and control variables.
As can be seen in Table 2, differences were signiﬁcant between
all of the non-entrepreneurs’ groups and the group composed of
entrepreneurial students. There was no signiﬁcant difference be-
tween groups of non-entrepreneurs (City, Bank, and Non-Entrepre-
neur-Students). Clearly, our results show that ‘‘entrepreneurial
students’’ score signiﬁcantly higher on narcissism that other voca-
tional groups, thus supporting Hypothesis 1. Table 3 presents
mean, standard deviation and correlation matrix for all variables
used in our model.
Furthermore, we have conducted a hierarchical linear regres-
sion on the student sample. As we can see in Table 4, Model I
shows that being a woman and the number of children were both
negatively related to the intention to start a business, but age and
ability to obtain funds were positively related. In Model II, we have
added the NPI-16, which appeared to be positively signiﬁcant. In
steps 3–6, we have added to our control variables GSE, risk propen-
sity and personal sphere of control. All of these trait variables,
when added by themselves to control variables in the model were
positively related to intention to start a business. For the seventh
step, we have added to the control variables all three entrepre-
neurial traits (GSE, risk propensity and LOC). All three were posi-
tively related to the intention to start a business resulting in an
of .252. Finally, the NPI was added in the seventh mod-
el and appears to be positively related to intention to start a busi-
ness, increasing the adjusted R
to 0.273. When NPI-16 is added to
the model, LOC’s contribution became non-signiﬁcant. For this last
model, risk propensity had the highest standardized b, followed by
the NPI-16 and GSE.
This study has found that student entrepreneurs are more nar-
cissistic than students who are non-entrepreneurs, employees and
managers from a ﬁnancial institution and city workers. Since the
literature seems to indicate that entrepreneurs and narcissists
share personality traits such as risk propensity, and possibly other
Differences in the means on NPI-16 between samples.
City Bank Student Entrepreneur tTest
Mean score 3.64
Std. dev. 2.56 2.53 3.05 3.33
Number of cases (n) 116 98 73 108
Signiﬁcant differences in post hoc tests between groups at p60.001.
C. Mathieu, É. St-Jean / Personality and Individual Differences 55 (2013) 527–531 529
traits (general self efﬁcacy and locus of control), the fact that entre-
preneurs are more narcissistic could explain some of the differ-
ences found in the literature between entrepreneurs and
Results also indicate that high scores on narcissism are posi-
tively associated with high scores on GSE, LOC and risk propensity.
Since narcissists have a grandiose sense of self-importance (APA,
2000), it is not very surprising to ﬁnd that narcissists score higher
on self-efﬁcacy measures. Self-efﬁcacy has been identiﬁed in the lit-
erature as one of the main components of intentions to start a busi-
ness (Chen et al., 1998) and the subsequent start-up (Dimov, 2010).
Since all of the three entrepreneurial traits (GSE, LOC and risk pro-
pensity) seem to be correlated to narcissism, perhaps working on
the underlying personality structure of individuals may help better
understand the concept of ‘‘the entrepreneurial personality’’.
Indeed, in terms of predicting intention to start a business, GSE
and risk propensity were good predictors. In fact, in the global
model, risk propensity was the best predictor of entrepreneurial
intentions; this is in line with results from a meta-analysis by Zhao
et al. (2010). LOC inﬂuenced signiﬁcantly the intention to start a
business, but to a lesser degree. However, when the NPI-16 was
added to the model, LOC’s contribution became non-signiﬁcant.
This ﬁnding is in line with previous conﬂicting results on the role
of LOC in entrepreneurial intentions. Judge and Bono (2002) had
hypothesized that these conﬂicting results may be due to the
strong resemblance between LOC and GSE. They present the fact
that Levenson’s GSE measure and Paulhus’ LOC measure (both used
in the present study) share a common item (‘‘When I make plans, I
am certain to make them work’’). Since narcissistic individuals
seem to show overconﬁdence in their skills and have a tendency
to overclaim their knowledge, perhaps LOC is part of the underly-
ing personality and a resulting trait of a core personality structure
captured by the NPI-16. Furthermore, in line with previous re-
search on the subject, in terms of sex, this study has found that
entrepreneurial intentions are signiﬁcantly lower for women (Wil-
son, Kickul, & Marlino, 2007). Moreover, results indicate that being
a woman reduces the scores on the NPI-16. This ﬁnding corre-
sponds to results found in research on subclinical narcissism indi-
cating that men tend to score higher on the NPI than women
(Twenge & Foster, 2008).
Moreover, when testing our different models including control
variables and only one ‘‘trait’’ variable at a time, the model that
yielded the strongest results was the one including the NPI-16
(although closely followed with the model including risk propen-
sity). In fact, adding all three traditional trait variables (LOC, risk
propensity and GSE) to the model that included only control vari-
ables and narcissism, we found that the model was only slightly
enhanced. This not only indicates the importance of considering
narcissism in predicting entrepreneurial intentions and behaviours
but may be an indication that personality traits traditionally re-
lated to entrepreneurship could be explained by this underlying
personality structure (confounding factor).
Mean, standard deviation and correlation matrix of variable used.
Variable Mean S.D. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
0.52 0.50 1.0
2-Age 24.98 6.36 0.04 1.0
3-Children 1.08 0.81 0.08
4-Abil. Funds 3.73 1.57 0.09
5-Mth wt.Rev 2.44 2.12 0.11
0.05 0.01 0.19
6-Intention 3.35 1.35 0.27
7-GSE 5.49 0.82 0.15
8-Risk-Taking 5.77 1.54 0.35
0.07 0.04 0.14
9-PSC 5.51 0.67 0.10
10-NPI 5.95 3.08 0.15
0.01 0.07 0.10
Note: Abil. Funds = ability to obtain funds; Mth wt. Rev = months without revenue; GES = general self-efﬁcacy; PSC = personal sphere of control; NPI = narcissistic personality
Coded men = 0, women = 1.
Correlation signiﬁcant at p60.05.
hierarchical linear regression of the intention to start a business.
Model I Model II Model III Model IV Model V Model VI Model VII
Number of children 0.142
0.003 -0.024 0.007 0.019
Ability to obtain funds 0.145
0.051 0.069 0.008 0.006
Mth without revenues 0.008 0.009 0.017 0.028 0.003 0.023 0.016
Personal Sphere of Ctrl 0.200
0.125 0.199 0.183 0.195 0.145 0.252 0.273
N1219 509 1215 514 522 513 508
Note: Abil. Funds = ability to obtain funds; Mth wt. Rev = months without revenue; GES = general self-efﬁcacy; PSC = personal sphere of control; NPI = narcissistic personality
Coded men = 0, women = 1.
530 C. Mathieu, É. St-Jean / Personality and Individual Differences 55 (2013) 527–531
4.1. Limitations and future directions
To our knowledge, this is the ﬁrst study to explore the role of
narcissism in entrepreneurship. The reliability of the NPI-16,
although acceptable was somewhat low. However, Ames et al.
(2006) reported that the NPI-16 paralleled the NPI-40 in its rela-
tion to other personality measures and dependant variables and
found Cronbach Alphas for the NPI-16 similar to the ones found
in the present study ranging from 0.65 to 0.72 for their 5 studies.
Also, this study relies on student entrepreneurs who may differ
from experienced entrepreneurs. Thus, results found in the present
study will have to be tested in a population of experienced
Furthermore, although our results seem to indicate that narcis-
sism is associated with business intentions, whether these results
would apply to business success remains to be tested. Just as nar-
cissism was associated with leader emergence but not with leader
effectiveness (Campbell et al., 2011), it may also be associated with
business start-up but not with business success in the long-run. In
other words, we argue that individuals who score very low on a
number of narcissistic traits such as risk-taking and overconﬁ-
dence may never start a business, but those who score very high
on the same traits could lead their businesses to a loss.
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