Your personality type determines your success.
Yikes. That’s an idea that shouldn’t resonate with anyone who reads this blog. Entrepreneurs are notoriously optimistic regarding our ability to overcome the cultural and biological conditioning that prevents us rocketing to success.
But what if we have it all wrong? Research indicates that one well documented personality type consistently produces more and better success than all the others.
EDIT: Free Testing for this trait is available – link at the bottom of this article (read it first, for context.)
In 1961 two US Air Force researchers, Tupes and Cristal, analyzed massive sets of personality data to condense down historic personality profiling systems into just five core traits.
Their work was etched into the psychology lexicon when a 1980 symposium on personality trait research concluded that the most promising personality tests focused on just these five common factors.
The gold standard of personality models, known as The Big Five, was born.
The Big Five theory tells us that while identity (our beliefs, values and individual psychological “make up”) might be infinitely varied, there are just five key dimensions of personality that can be tested and measured without overlap.
The five traits can be remembered with this helpful anagram:
O – Openness
C – Conscientiousness
E – Extraversion
A – Agreeableness
N – Neuroticism
Research singles out Conscientiousness as the Alpha trait.
Tech entrepreneurs might describe it as “The Killer App”.
In his book How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Power of Hidden Character, Paul Tough doesn’t mince his words.
“It would actually be nice if there were some negative things that went along with conscientiousness, but at this point it’s emerging as one of the primary dimensions of successful functioning across the lifespan. It really goes cradle to grave in terms of how people do.”
A 2009 National Institute on Aging study, “Personality and Career Success“, points to conscientiousness as the personality trait solely correlated with remarkably higher income and job satisfaction.
Further, a study published in the Journal of Economic Psychology claims conscientiousness is the one trait that has a huge impact on our ability to find and retain employment.
What’s most damning is that Agreeableness and Extraversion, two traits most prized by the entrepreneurial elite, seem to have zero impact on any of these measures of human commercial success.
Of course, all this research draws sample populations from the corporate world – it’s probably easier to herd cats than make entrepreneurs fill out surveys en masse.
One could argue that all this evidence showing conscientiousness as the winning human quality may only be valid if we’re using the dreaded white collar zombie as our yardstick for success.
However when more research points to high conscientiousness scoring individuals generating higher incomes across all industries, while also connecting the trait with length and happiness of marriage (for example), the writing is on the wall.
Tough is quick to point out: “People high in conscientiousness get better grades in school and college; they commit fewer crimes; and they stay married longer. They live longer — and not just because they smoke and drink less. They have fewer strokes, lower blood pressure and a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.”
For those of you bent on becoming Internet Famous, a University of Cambridge study indicates that conscientiousness is the determining factor driving influence on Twitter.
At this point even the most skeptical, creative and harebrained entrepreneurs need to look up from their messy desks and pay attention.
It might be time to re-evaluate your life choices.
Conscientiousness is defined as “the state of being thorough, careful, or vigilant”. It includes tendencies to favor self discipline, carefulness, and thoroughness. In practice, conscientiousness is developed through two “aspects” or behaviors: Organization and Industriousness.
How do you rate yourself?
The good news is that the majority of Big Five research optimistically suggests that your individual profile can change and evolve over time. Obviously, some behaviors and rituals will exercise the conscientiousness “muscle” – the military, in at least a stereotypical examples, is an organization that appears to pump out highly organized and industrious humans.
Is it time to work on your organization and industriousness? All sources indicate that to ignore conscientiousness is career suicide.
Or are you the kind of entrepreneur who values “working smart” over working hard, for whom “personal organization” is some kind of pipe dream?
Get your test results here – it’s free, no sign up is required and it takes less than 4 minutes to complete. Join our readers in posting your results below.