Study links personal, corporate risk-taking

Author: Mendoza College

A CEO who enjoys the adrenaline rush of flying a private airplane is more likely than other chief executives to exhibit similarly bold management characteristics, according to a new study by finance professors at the University of Oregon and the University of Notre Dame.  

The study, "Cleared for Takeoff? CEO Personal Risk-Taking and Corporate Policies," documents a link between the personality traits of high-flying executives and business moves such as mergers, acquisitions and accumulation of debt. The study is co-authored by Stephen McKeon, an assistant professor of finance at the UO's Lundquist College of Business; and Matthew Cain, an assistant professor of finance at Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business.

"CEOs who seek thrills in their personal lives are more likely than others to be aggressive in their corporate policies," McKeon said. "They also tend to be effective leaders. If anything, these CEOs execute acquisitions that are more value-creating than those completed by other executives."

For their study, McKeon and Cain compared 179 corporate executives who hold private pilots' licenses to 2,900 non-pilot CEOs. The Sensation Seeking Scale - developed in the 1970s by psychologist Marvin Zuckerman and used since then in hundreds of psychological studies - identifies the desire to fly airplanes as a very high predictor of thrill- and adventure-seeking traits.

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This story also appeared in Futurity and Red Orbit

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