The entrepreneurial personality

By Legal Eagle

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.

30 Comments

  1. Posted May 1, 2009 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    Dunning-Kruger?

  2. Posey
    Posted May 1, 2009 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    You need to take risks to succeed or achieve anything. We all do it, all the time.

    But the thing about the Kenneth Lay, Christopher Skase, Rodney Adler, Alan Bond, Robert Maxwell’s of this world, is one, they’re all male and an entire universe of meaning lies behind that factoid. And two, completely related, they all had an army of supporters, courtiers. yea-sayers, spin artists extraordinaire, besotted intimate 100 percenters, who coaxed them out from under the bed, cradled their mortal heads, soothed their fears and sent them back into the fray.

  3. Posted May 3, 2009 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    But the thing about the Kenneth Lay, Christopher Skase, Rodney Adler, Alan Bond, Robert Maxwell’s of this world, is one, they’re all male and an entire universe of meaning lies behind that factoid.

    I don’t entirely disagree with this statement Posey. Camille Paglia’s observation that the male psyche is inherently unstable and thus prone to extremes of creativity and destruction pertains I think.

    But Martha Stewart?

    The girls can do it too y’all.

  4. Posey
    Posted May 3, 2009 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    Grandiosity, the desire to win at all costs and the optimistic denialism or, in extremis, blindness and rigidity that often goes with that can be exhibited by both men and women in the business world.

    But, in general, given our unique reproductive and nurturing gendered and biological role, I think women are less prone than men to think instrumentally., i.e., reductively, and so less able or willing to become in effect like a machine and coldly view other human beings as machines, or as mere instrumental means to selfish materialistic ends.

  5. John Greenfield
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    Oh good god, if there is any human behaviour that emphasises the reality of gender differences, it is entrepreunarialism.!!

    Under NO circumstances should any of you invest one cent in any XX chromosomal entrepreunarial venture. Even the most XY of XX types (such as the Luvvie Plodders Sapphists) are not cut out for wheeling and dealing.

    While the differences within the sexes might be greater than the differences between them, give me a sheilah mother and a bloke bread winner any day!

  6. Posted May 4, 2009 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know whether its a lack of opportunity on the part of women or something about the male personality.

    Grandiosity, the desire to win at all costs and the optimistic denialism or, in extremis, blindness and rigidity that often goes with that can be exhibited by both men and women in the business world.

    It would be interesting to see this issue explored further. Last year I read a book Tales From the Boom-Boom Room that charted the experiences of women entering the financial industry en masse in the 1980s. Needless to say many faced some of the most vile and disgusting behaviour I’ve ever heard of. I really can’t understand men who behave in this manner. It doesn’t just display a lack of respect for women but a lack of respect in general and especially for themselves.

    But anyway one of the interesting patterns that emerged was that high-flyers (often the worst offenders) were often pretty dodgy. Many of them earned commission on stocks they sold regardless of how shite that stock was. So, altho’ they were high-flyers, they sucked if you were an investor.

    The women on the other hand were lower level achievers who concentrated on building healthy, long term portfolios and did very well for their investors. Who’d you rather pick?

    Under NO circumstances should any of you invest one cent in any XX chromosomal entrepreunarial venture.

    Anita Roddick? Coco Chanel? My mother…

  7. Richard
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Misogyny is always worst in male-dominated arenas/institutions/professions/workplaces/blogs. Women are punished for trespassing on men’s territory. It is raw animal instinct for a certain sort of male, or males in groups more typically, to trash women and treat them like shite to try and drive them out, away and/or make them fail.

  8. jc
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    I dunno, LE. STeve Jobs is my hero in terms of this sort of talent and he’s seen both failure and success, although his successes have been breathtaking.

  9. Posted May 4, 2009 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    STeve Jobs is my hero in terms of this sort of talent and he’s seen both failure and success, although his successes have been breathtaking.

    Mmm a half Syrian adopted kid who grows up in hippieland, travels to India, drops acid….

    Not too many of those in the business world ‘ey?

  10. Posey
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    Germaine Greer famously said most women have little idea how much men hate them. That’s true and men’s hatred is vast.

    But many of us do also experience men who don’t hate women, not stroppy women, or even us, and so, as ever, exceptions can sometimes over-ride the rule without contradicting it.

  11. Posted May 4, 2009 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    A man who hates women as much as women hate one another

    HL Mencken

    Sorry couldn’t resist.

  12. Posted May 4, 2009 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    Sorry that was Mencken’s definition of a misogynist. That bit helps if you wanna, like, get the joke.

  13. Posey
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    Mencken was a smart guy and Dot Parker was a smart woman. People of their time. Second wave feminism was in large part a defensive counter-measure against woman-on-woman viciousness. But we’re in a post-feminist world now so that’s alright.

  14. Posted May 5, 2009 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    Razors pain you
    Rivers are damp
    Acid stains you
    And drugs cause cramp
    Guns aren’t lawful
    Nooses give
    Gas smells awful
    You might as well live. 🙂

  15. Posey
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    So, praise the gods, Catullus is away!
    And let me tend you this advice, my dear:
    Take any lover that you will, or may,
    Except a poet. All of them are queer.

    It’s just the same — a quarrel or a kiss
    Is but a tune to play upon his pipe.
    He’s always hymning that or wailing this;
    Myself, I much prefer the business type.

    That thing he wrote, the time the sparrow died —
    (Oh, most unpleasant — gloomy, tedious words!)
    I called it sweet, and made believe I cried;
    The stupid fool! I’ve always hated birds

  16. Posted May 5, 2009 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    Upon my honour I saw a Madonna
    Hangin’ in a niche
    Above the door
    Of the private whore
    Of the world’s worst son-of-a-bitch!

  17. Posey
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    Parker always denied it, pointing out that she would never have rhymed “honor” with “Madonna”.

  18. Posey
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    Dot Parker had her place. But where is the female Alfred, Lord Tennyson?

    Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the white;
    Nor waves the cypress in the palace walk;
    Nor winks the gold fin in the porphyry font;
    The firefly wakens, waken thou with me.

    “Now droops the milk-white peacock like a ghost,
    And like a ghost she glimmers on to me.

    Now lies the Earth all Danae to the stars,
    And all thy heart lies open unto me.

    Now slides the silent meteor on, and leaves
    A shining furrow, as thy thoughts, in me.

    Now folds the lily all her sweetness up,
    And slips into the bosom of the lake.
    So fold thyself, my dearest, thou, and slip
    Into my bosom and be lost in me. “

  19. Posted May 5, 2009 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    Serendipity:

    Over the weekend I was toying with the often scorned idea of “group selection” from evolutionary theory. I was prompted in this direction by the prevalence of gene variations(allele) that predispose people towards some psychiatric conditions; especially schizophrenia and depression. Keep in mind this important point: a single allele prediposing towards a psychopathology may not produce psychopathology but does have measurable effects on behavior(numerous studies of first degree relatives point to this).

    So why did these gene variations(alleles) persist in the populations? My ratty thinking went like this: those with single alleles were valuable to the group because these alleles conferred certain behavioral traits that were advantageous under certain environmental conditions. The group with a mixture of such alleles in the population would have a exploration advantage because in exploration one encounters many differing environments, and humans love to wander about …..

    Relevance:

    Entrepreneurs are an important segment of any group. They bring energy, drive, and creativity to furthering the fortunes of the group. They are not like crows(as a friend of mine likes to say: crows are paranoid, one step forward, two steps back) but tend to ignore potential risks because they are too preoccupied with the potential payoff. Great people to have around to get things moving but the refusal to recognise the looming danger can spell disaster for the group. Reminds me of the captain of the Titanic. “Is that an iceberg? Can’t be, I must be developing a cataract. “

  20. John Greenfield
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    Posey

    I think you will find Germs’ ego has sent her giddy yet. Just because oodles of me no doubt hate HER, that does not mean they tar the whole sex with Germs! 🙂

  21. Posted May 6, 2009 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Parker always denied it, pointing out that she would never have rhymed “honor” with “Madonna”.

    Good point. She was American. Madonna and honour don;t scan in the accent. Doesn’t matter. It’s good anyway. Poor old Marian Davies she wasn’t so bad. Welles was very cruel to her. But at least Bogdanavich broke her off some.

    But where is the female Alfred, Lord Tennyson?

    Dunno but –

    I found the phrase to every thought
    I ever had, but one;
    And that defies me,–as a hand
    Did try to chalk the sun

    To races nurtured in the dark;–
    How would your own begin?
    Can blaze be done in cochineal,
    Or noon in mazarin?

  22. Posey
    Posted May 6, 2009 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Adrien. I didn’t know that one.

    Was Emily Dickinson the most fecund yet succinct poet ever? Maybe not, but her output was enormous. I borrowed a library copy of a complete anthology of her poems around the same time as I did a collection of Pablo Neruda’s entire oeuvre. Both hefty tomes.

    “Nature rarer uses yellow
    Than another hue;
    Saves she all of that for sunsets,—
    Prodigal of blue,

    Spending scarlet like a woman,
    Yellow she affords
    Only scantly and selectly,
    Like a lover’s words. ”

    E.D.

  23. Richard
    Posted May 7, 2009 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    On a wide range of topics La Greer has the happy knack of articulating exactly what many people think but are unable or incapable of expressing at all or as well. She puts forward her arguments without self-protective egotistical concern for the inevitable backlash. This in itself is the mark of a highly valuable and far too rare public intellectual.

    I’d agree she is too big, too subversive an intellect for the provincial culture-cringing Australia that Patrick White, Gina Riley, John Clarke & many others have satirised so well, and this is part-explanation too for the example of petty contentless derogation of her exhibited at #23.

  24. Posted May 7, 2009 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    Was Emily Dickinson the most fecund yet succinct poet ever?

    She was delicious. 🙂

  25. Posey
    Posted May 8, 2009 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    Yes delicious, like an

    Onion,
    luminous flask,
    your beauty formed
    petal by petal,
    crystal scales expanded you
    and in the secrecy of the dark earth
    your belly grew round with dew.
    Under the earth
    the miracle
    happened
    and when your clumsy
    green stem appeared,
    and your leaves were born
    like swords
    in the garden,
    the earth heaped up her power
    showing your naked transparency,
    and as the remote sea
    in lifting the breasts of Aphrodite
    duplicating the magnolia,
    so did the earth
    make you,
    onion
    clear as a planet
    and destined
    to shine,
    constant constellation,
    round rose of water,
    upon
    the table
    of the poor.

    You make us cry without hurting us.
    I have praised everything that exists,
    but to me, onion, you are
    more beautiful than a bird
    of dazzling feathers,
    heavenly globe, platinum goblet,
    unmoving dance
    of the snowy anemone
    and the fragrance of the earth lives
    in your crystalline nature.

    Pablo Neruda

  26. John Greenfield
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    My dear Posey

    Speaking – or perhaps versifying – of Le Neruda, have you seen the fillum Il Postino? No strapping on or sex changes, I’m afraid, but tis quite a delight nevertheless.

2 Trackbacks

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