The Influence of Personality Trai...
The Influence of Personality Traits and Demographic Factors on Social Entrepreneurship Start Up Intentions Joyce Koe Hwee Nga Gomathi Shamuganathan ABSTRACT. The sheer impact of the recent global financial turmoil and scandals (such as Enron and WorldCom) has demonstrated that unbridled commercial entrepreneurs who are allowed to pursue their short-term opportunities regardless of the consequences has led to a massive depreciation of the wealth of nations, social livelihood and environmental degradation. This article suggests that the time has come for entrepreneurs to adopt a more integrative view of business that blends economic, social and environmental values. Social entrepreneurs present such a proposition through their deep commit- ment towards the social vision, appreciation of sustainable practices, innovativeness, ability to build social networks and also generate viable financial returns. It could be expected that social entrepreneurs often possess certain distinct personality characteristics which define their behaviours/actions. Personality traits are partly developed by innate nurturing, socialization and education. These tacit traits are also formed values/beliefs held and play an important role in driving social entrepreneurial deci- sion making. Thus, personality traits may influence the intentions and the manner in which the individual acts. We hold that if social entrepreneurship is to be effective and impactful, business and management education can facilitate the development of these critical personality traits. Thus, this study primes at determining the per- sonality traits that influence social entrepreneurs��� start-up intentions. It also reinforces the findings that personality traits do influence entrepreneurship in general. This study examines the influence of the Big Five personality traits on social entrepreneurship dimensions. The findings reveal that agreeableness positively influences all dimen- sions of social entrepreneurship, whereas openness exerts a positive influence on social vision, innovation and financial returns. Methodologically, this study develops valid and reliable scales for social entrepreneurship and verifies the adopted Big Five personality measure of Schmit et al. (Pers Psychol 53:153���193, 2000) using the five-point Likert scale. The implication of this study is that element of appreciation of social responsibility, sus- tainability and character development needs to be inte- grated within the business education curriculum to support social entrepreneurs in realizing genuine value and impact to the causes and communities they serve. Future business leaders also need to be equipped with entrepreneurship skills, while exuding independent and reflective thinking in the pursuit life-long learning. The originality of this study lies in its focus on personality traits on social rather than commercial entrepreneurship. It is hoped that the findings will trigger a paradigm shift to- wards greater social entrepreneurship through education by nurturing sustainable development values in future business graduates. KEY WORDS: social entrepreneurship, personality traits, social responsibility, entrepreneurship education Introduction Entrepreneurship is often defined as the opportunistic pursuit of economic wealth via creative initiatives of the individual operating within an uncertain envi- ronment constrained by limited tangible resources (Austin et al., 2006 Mitchell et al., 2002). The fram- ing of entrepreneurship within economic theory assumes the rationalistic model of man. Economic rationale neglects the idiosyncratic human capabilities that promote flexibility and use of social discretion in deriving practical innovative solutions (Baumol, 1968 Loasby, 2007). Economic theory also ignores the differences in human values, capabilities and power of the human will (Loasby, 2007). Past researchers have mostly focussed on commercial entrepreneur- ship with an emphasis of financial returns over social Journal of Business Ethics (2010) 95:259���282 �� Springer 2010 DOI 10.1007/s10551-009-0358-8
returns. Their reliance on the ���invisible hand��� of the free-market system has placed the responsibility of safeguarding the public and social goods within the ambit of governments. The bureaucratic, political and inflexible nature of governments, however, have often rendered implementation of social policies ineffective (Dees, 2007). As a result, social entrepre- neurs have often stepped to meet these gaps where governments have failed by emphasizing social value above financial returns (Haughton, 2008). The sheer impact of the recent global financial turmoil and scandals (such as Enron and WorldCom) has also demonstrated that commercial entrepreneurs who are let free to pursue their short-term opportunities regardless of the consequences has led to a massive depreciation of the wealth of nations, social livelihood and environmental degradation. This article suggests that the time has come for entrepreneurs to adopt a more integrative view of business that blends eco- nomic, social and environmental values. Social entre- preneurs also adopt a wider viewpoint on value creation compared to their commercial counterparts. They uphold the synergistic derivation of social, economic and environmental values without over- emphasis on shareholders��� wealth maximization (Kurucz et al., 2008). Personality traits have been posited in explaining the industrious behaviours and agile actions of social entrepreneurs (Llewellyn and Wilson, 2003). Social entrepreneurs are often distinguished by their ability to envisage, engage, enable and enact transforma- tional change efficiently in the face of scarce resources, risks and diverse contexts (Thompson, 2002 Thompson et al., 2000). However, the influ- ence that personality traits play in defining social entrepreneurs has remained controversial and under- explored and under-researched. This article endeavours to investigate the influence of the Big Five personality trait dimensions com- prising openness, agreeableness, neuroticism and conscientiousness on social entrepreneurship. In light of the findings that the influence of personality traits is the highest in determining business start-up inten- tions in budding entrepreneurs, a sample of college and undergraduates has been employed (Frank et al., 2007). In addition, the sample consisting of business and management students from a private higher education institution (HEI) has also been selected in view of the implications of this study on the business education curriculum. The quantitative survey method is adopted as part of an initial investigation to obtain the macro view concerning the influence between personality traits and social entrepreneurship based on the conceptual framework developed for this study (Figure 1). Similar studies on commercial entrepreneurship have also adopted such quantitative survey methods (Table I). Implications are then derived by employing theoretical triangulation in drawing inferences from the findings of the study. The authors adopt a technical and situational para- digm stance which recognizes that quantitative and qualitative methods are interconnected but have distinctive epistemological and ontological assump- tions (Bryman and Bell, 2007). Thus, while quanti- tative and qualitative methods are not compatible within the same phase of this study, qualitative methods can be employed to draw theoretical infer- ences and/or applied within different study situations and contexts (Flick, 2009 Miles and Huberman, 1994). As such, this article starts by first reviewing the underpinning literature concerning the concept of social entrepreneurship and the Big Five model of personality traits (Costa and McCrae, 1992 cited in Llewellyn and Wilson, 2003) to understand their interconnections that form the basis for the devel- opment of the conceptual framework and hypoth- eses of this study. Second, measurement scales for social entrepreneurship dimensions, namely sustain- ability, vision, networking and returns orientation are developed from concepts derived from extant literature. The validity and reliability of social entrepreneurship dimensions as well as the Big Five personality trait measurement adapted from Schmit et al. (2000) are determined using Exploratory Fac- tor Analysis (EFA) and Cronbach���s a, respectively. Third, hypotheses testing are conducted using the Multiple Linear Regression to substantiate the research questions. The study found that agreeable- ness positively influences all dimensions of social entrepreneurship, whereas openness exerts a positive influence on social vision, innovation and financial returns. These findings have important implications on the design of business education curriculum particularly in developing personality traits and val- ues within future business leaders/entrepreneurs that will enable them to be transformative in integrating social, environmental and economic values. 260 Joyce Koe Hwee Nga and Gomathi Shamuganathan
We maintain that if social entrepreneurship is to be effective and impactful, business and management education can facilitate the development of these critical personality traits. Thus, this study primes at determining the personality traits that influence social entrepreneurs��� start-up intentions. It also aims to reinforce the findings that personality traits do influence entrepreneurship in general. Theoretical background This section provides the theoretical underpinning surrounding the broad concepts of entrepreneurship and personality traits. It will then streamline the focus of this study to social entrepreneurship and Big Five personality traits and elaborate on their respective dimensions. The social entrepreneurship dimensions covered are social vision, sustainability, social net- works, innovation and financial returns. The Big Five personality traits comprises openness, extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and neuroticism. Overview of the field of entrepreneurship Entrepreneurship is a multi-dimensional discipline with roots spanning the fields of economics, psychology, sociology and strategic management (Mitchell et al., 2002). Entrepreneurial motivation represents the blending of social interaction, technical competence and emotional zeal of the individual (Goss, 2008). The definition of entrepreneurship remains broad. In general, the evolving definition of entrepreneurship involves individual(s) who are dri- ven to act on opportunities and/or environmental catalysts by employing innovative processes in the face of limited resources (Handy et al., 2007 Mitchell et al., 2002 Schaper and Volery, 2004). Past research pertaining to entrepreneurship can be classified into three major genres, namely the functional, personality and behavioural approaches (Cope, 2005). The functional approach is linked to rational outcomes within economic theory. The personality approach concerns the characteristics of individual psychologi- cal traits that define an entrepreneur. Finally, the behavioural approach derives from strategic manage- ment and involves the process of how an entrepreneur perceives and acts on opportunities presented. This study is positioned from the personality approach. Personality traits are predictable charac- teristics of individual behaviour which assist in explaining the differences of individual actions in similar situations (Llewellyn and Wilson, 2003). We adopt the stance that individual personality of social Figure 1. Conceptual framework. 261 The Influence of Personality Traits and Demographic Factors
TABLE I Previous studies on entrepreneurship employing student samples Type Sample size Matlay ( 2008 ) Qualitative/lon- gitudinal 64 Study conducted over 10 years to investigate the propensity of undergraduates in selecting entrepreneurship as a career path. Found positive relationship between entrepreneurship education and entrepreneurship career aspiration Schmitt-Rodermund ( 2004 ) Quantitative/ cross-sectional 320 College and non-college students The study found that early parental modelling and personality traits influenced entrepreneurial competence in adolescence Raposo et al. ( 2008 ) Quantitative/ cross-sectional 316 Students The study investigated the entrepreneurial profile of university students. The findings show that the prominent characteristics are the ���independents��� and ���confidents���. The ���confidents��� displayed greater leadership, self-belief and ambition converting to a greater propensity to undertake entrepreneurship Frank et al. ( 2007 ) Quantitative 417 (18 year olds) The study found that entrepreneurial personality traits (need for achievement, locus of control and risk propensity) influence was highest among school and university students who displayed business start-up intentions. However, per- sonality traits were not able to predict long-term venture success 777 (University students) 314 (Business founders) 1169 (Successful entrepreneurs) Wilson et al. ( 2007 ) Quantitative/ cross-sectional 4,292 Middle/high school students and 1,132 MBA students The study investigated the relationship between gender, entrepreneurship self- efficacy and career intentions. Females have been found to generally lower self- efficacy and entrepreneurial career intentions Crant ( 1996 ) Quantitative 181 Students The study found that proactive personality, gender, education level and entrepreneurial parentage are important predictors that have a significant positive influence on entrepreneurial intentions Abd Moen et al. ( 2004 ) Quantitative/ cross-sectional Not stated The Malaysian study found that age, gender, race and religion did not exert a significant influence on entrepreneurial attitude among youths at Institute Kemahiran Belia Negara. Arts major students were found to be more entre- preneurial compared to other majors 262 Joyce Koe Hwee Nga and Gomathi Shamuganathan
entrepreneurs provides the impetus to high will- power that drives their passions, innovativeness and social interactions. This sanctions their choice and ability to integrate social, environmental and eco- nomic aspects in the enhancement of value (Goss, 2005, 2008 Kurucz et al., 2008 Rhee and White, 2007). Characteristics of social entrepreneurship (SOC_ENT) In contrast to commercial entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs are committed to serve basic human needs and to facilitate impactful quality of life improvement within society (Austin et al., 2006 Elkington, 2006 Ridley-Duff, 2008). Social entre- preneurs fill the gaps in the provision of public goods where governments have failed and where the pri- vate sector views that the risk do not commensurate the rewards associated with such ventures (Haugh- ton, 2002). Most cited characteristics of the social entrepreneurs as innovativeness, achievement cen- tred, independence, sense of destiny, low risk aver- sion, tolerance for ambiguity and social value creation (Brooks, 2009). However, these highlighted aspects of social entrepreneurs��� confuse innate char- acteristics with personality traits. This study focuses on four related aspects of social entrepreneurship, namely the social vision, sustainability, social net- working, innovativeness and financial returns. Social vision encompasses the sense of destiny. Sustain- ability and financial return inclination covers the aspects of social value creation. Achievement ori- entation, independence, risk aversion and ambiguity tolerance relates to personality traits dimensions of conscientiousness and extroversion which are dis- cussed in the next section. Social entrepreneurship transcends philanthropic and/or charitable giving as it promotes a more enduring and engaging solution to social problems. Charitable giving is often one-off to appease the conscience or seeks to promote a favourable corpo- rate image. However, it may not be effective in per- petuating social problems such as poverty as recipients often lag by shrugging off initiative and responsibility for progress (Dees, 2007). Social entrepreneurs pro- mote their mission for social change by supporting the beneficiaries to realize their potential and undertake ownership in improving their quality of life (Elking- ton and Hartigan, 2008, p. 33). As such, social entrepreneurs adopt the enduring synergistic view of value creation by uncovering innovative ways where social, environmental and economic issues can be integrated and enhanced (Kurucz et al., 2008). The social entrepreneurship process involves envisioning, engaging, enacting and enabling trans- formational change to promote social, economic and environmental or triple bottom line performance (Thompson, 2002 Thompson et al., 2000). Envi- sioning involves identifying a real social need that presents both a gap and opportunity. The social entrepreneur is committed to their social vision and will find pragmatic, innovative solutions to social problems regardless of ideological or resource con- straints. The social entrepreneur is often unreason- ably ostentatious in fulfilling their mission to create/ enhance social value (Elkington and Hartigan, 2008, p. 5). The engaging process involves demonstrating commitment through social networks to harness trust, transparency and credibility. Strategic part- nerships are crucial in the not-for-profit sector to garner grass root support, participation and legiti- mization of the social mission (Gliedt and Parker, 2007). Social networks are also an avenue for emotional, financial and human resources. The enacting process involves leading, directing and assigning purpose to the vision from inception to fruition. The enabling process includes the acquiring of finance and training of human resources to sustain the social vision. This study streamlines the characteristics of social entrepreneurs��� into five dimensions, namely social vision, sustainability, social networking, innova- tiveness and financial returns. The following sub- sections details these further. Social vision (SV). The social entrepreneur is driven by a compelling social vision that encapsulates a strong sense of obligation and destiny towards ful- filling a basic human need (Barendsen and Gardner, 2004 Brooks, 2009). The social vision drives the ability to see opportunities beyond the present with the objective of extending the stewardship arm to be an agent of social change (Barendsen and Gardner, 2004 Dees, 2001 Keogh and Polonsky, 1998). Commitment for social issues is usually borne with a sense of emotional affection and sense of responsi- bility to sustain an environmental and/or social cause (Keogh and Polonsky, 1998). As such, social entre- preneurs often act as advocates in voicing and 263 The Influence of Personality Traits and Demographic Factors