The Dark Side of Entrepreneurs

Yesterday I wrote about different positive qualities of entrepreneurs but psychopathology is also associated with some of these folks (think Gordon Gecko).  The pathological aspects usually have to do with early childhood losses and wounds.  Success is a way to try to heal themselves. Sometimes it works. 

For example:

  • They may be misfits and hard-to-get-along-with employees who start their own companies because they have trouble getting along with authority (Han Solo) and cannot succeed in an established company.
  • They may have trouble working in a structured environment.
  • Their high need for control can make them difficult to work with.
  • They may be distrustful of others.
  • They are often poor communicators.

Environment matters.  Anyone who has ever worked in a company, organization, or institution knows that the culture/rules/attitudes of the place matters.  Therefore, going out on your own can be a creative solution.

Some men become entrepreneurs in order to come to terms with the failures of their fathers.  They were deeply let down by their fathers.  These men may succeed or not, but they are trying to repair the emotional damage done in their early years.

Self-destroyers” are a brand of entrepreneurs who do not succeed.  They have deep-seated rage; they are cocky; they are rebellious; and they have unacknowledged guilt.  Therefore, they destroy their successes because they do not believe that they deserve to succeed.

“Grandiose dreamers” are another variety of entrepreneur fueled by old wounds but they often succeed.  They feel empty inside and are driven by an image of achieving parental love.  They want the praise and admiration. The grandiose dreamers fail if they get confused between their personal abilities and their fantasies  – they ignore warning signals.

On the really dark side, some people are sociopaths (no conscience, no empathy, no guilt) or extreme narcissists (no empathy, unable to see another point of view, “it’s all about me”).  Maybe we are better off when they become entrepreneurs and leave the rest of us alone.

For a complete article about their ideas of “Fatherlessness” in entrepreneurs, read Carlo Strenger’s and Jacob Burak’s article, “The Leonardo Effect: Why Entrepreneurs Become Their Own Fathers”  found in the International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 2005, volume 2, pp. 103-128.

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2 Responses to “The Dark Side of Entrepreneurs”

  1. September 11th, 2010 1:48 pm

    It seems that this particular post speaks to male entrepreneurs. I’m wondering, and I haven’t read the book, if the idea of “becoming their own fathers” applies to women, as well, given that the previous post indicated that quite a few women start their own businesses.

  2. September 11th, 2010 3:17 pm
    Linda Edelstein

    That’s a great question and I’m embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t even thought about it (especially since I write about women’s lives so often). What do you think? Carlo Strenger, the Israeli professor studied men. Maybe I ought to write and ask him.