Understanding Danger Zones: Our Latest Findings on Successful Entrepreneurs

May 28, 2021

by Charlotte Oxnam

Download the PDF report

Read the full report on our latest findings on successful entrepreneurs’ “danger zones” here.

Over the past year, The Garage, in conjunction with Northwestern Professor of Psychology Dr. Jennifer Tackett, has been collecting data on the personality traits of successful entrepreneurs as part of its revolutionary leadership development program, X-Factor

X-Factor utilizes the Hogan Leadership Forecast Series for personality assessment work with student entrepreneurs as well as for novel academic research on the personality traits of successful entrepreneurs. You can read our first report from the fall and initial findings here. Successful entrepreneurs in our research study have co-founded a company that they have scaled to millions of dollars in revenue or millions of users. 

In our latest report, we aimed to hone in on what is called “danger zones,” or areas of our personality that may emerge when we aren’t at our best, for example when we are sleep deprived or under stress. We found that successful founders tend to score high in the traits of bold, mischievous, colorful, and imaginative. While these traits might serve one well under normal circumstances, under stress, they can stand in our way. For example, under normal circumstances, the bold trait might come across as confident and assertive, but under stressful conditions, it might come across as entitled and arrogant. This cluster has been called the “charisma cluster” in other research and is associated with leadership effectiveness.

What does that mean? By examining “danger zones” we can better understand where successful entrepreneurs might encounter challenges, but also the adaptive aspects of these traits that have helped them achieve success in the first place.

The full report on successful entrepreneurs’ “danger zones” can be accessed here

About the Successful Entrepreneur Personality (SEP) Study

The SEP study is a collaboration between Jennifer L. Tackett, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Northwestern, and Melissa Kaufman, executive director of The Garage at Northwestern. Participants in our study have founded or co-founded a company and scaled it from a startup to multi-million dollars in revenue. Most have experienced either a significant exit or taken the company public. Data collection is ongoing and we are actively looking for more successful entrepreneurs interested in participating in the study! If you’d like to participate, please email thegarage@northwestern.edu.

This article was written by Charlotte Oxnam. Charlotte is an industrial engineering student at Northwestern and the founder of CuetheCurves.com, as well as a student aide at The Garage.

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