Want to become a billionaire, or at least a very rich person? Well, it will help if you have certain personality traits, says someone who has extensively looked into the personalities of the super-rich.
German entrepreneur and academic Rainer Zitelmann has written a book – the Wealth Elite – about the subject and he says it’s probably the first authoritative account of what personality traits make people very rich. “There’s been much written on the personalities of millionaires, but very little on the very rich,” he says.
Zitelmann reckons there are types of personality traits that are particular to the self-made very rich – those who’ve made in excess of €30 million all the way up to billion-plus.
Despite the growing prevalence of the super rich in most societies, we don’t know much about them
“One of the most important things I discovered is there is a clear relationship between their personality traits and their financial success,” he says. Pretty much all of the 45 people self-made ultra-high net worth individuals he spoke to said formal qualifications played a minor role in their success.
“What was much more important to these individuals is their experience as entrepreneurs at a very young age. And what they learnt at this time was very crucial to their success.”
He also found that most of the self-made super-rich were non-conformists. “They do things in a very different way than other people, and they like to swim against the tide.”
Another important personality trait among the super-rich is the responsibility they take for making wrong decisions. “Pretty much all of them experienced difficult times on their journey to making a fortune, but the way they dealt with difficulties was all in the same way – they blamed themselves, not external factors,” says Zitelmann.
“But, far from making them weaker, this ‘blaming themselves’ attitude gave them a feeling of power, because it was up to them to improve their situation, not factors out of their control.”
Most of these individuals also have strong sales skills, and they pretty much all said their ability to sell successfully made a decisive contribution to their success, says Zitelmann. “But when you meet these people many of them don’t fit the stereotype of a salesperson.”
Interestingly, and this is very pertinent for family enterprises, these personality traits are rarely passed on to the next generation, says Zitelmann. “That helps to explain why almost all the wealth inherited a century, or even 50 years ago, has gone.”
Zitelmann hopes his efforts to delve into the personality traits of the very rich will be a catalyst for other people to dig deeper into the subject. “Despite the growing prevalence of the super rich in most societies, we don’t know much about them.”