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Private education has seen an upturn in investment in recent years and respective growth in school groups and investors specialising in this field. We are fortunate to have collected some refined data into personalities of both investors and educators and this gives us an interesting spin on conflicts that are likely to happen. On an additional note we have also developed a leadership pipeline framework that matches to organisational dynamics – one of these dynamics being that of a larger school group structure which brings its own challenges and personality matches and sometimes spectacular mismatches.

Of the three natural stakeholders in such relationships (Investor, Owner/founder and Educationalists), the owner most frequently finds themselves in the middle, balancing the objectives and approaches of the two others carefully.  We’ve gathered together some insights from this middle-man perspective which could hold the key to helping find the elusive sweet-spot in this, sometimes fraught, triumvirate.

So, first up let’s look at the top 9 personality differences between educators and entrepreneurs (including school owners) and investors.

This does not contradict passion and energy – you can be passionate and energetic but be collected rather than neurotic. This is what calmness means here. Interestingly, in our data so far, founders, business owners and educational leaders are noticeably calmer than employees and significantly more so than investors; investors being a full 17% more sensitive and neurotic than founders.

Insight: Stay calm but don’t underestimate sensitivity of your team or investors

Conflict areas: Be on your toes because investors will respond quickly if they feel something is not right and get nervous quicker – proactively manage investors

Founders self-rated their ability to pick up information as better than the average of this cohort and 10% better than corporate workers but a little below the ratings of investors. 

Educationalists see themselves as lifelong learners, thankfully so! But this mismatches with investors who likelearning but fall considerably below that of educationalists. In fact, educationalists consistently reported the importance and orientation towards learning as a full 100% -meaning this is a deep value for them and violation of this can cause resentment and consternation.

Insight: Clearly join the dots between how lifelong learning can match to better educational outcomes and hence financial results for investors

Conflict areas: Investors will be focused, and it is their role and duty to be so, on the financials. Educationalists with the passion for learning may hit a complete disconnect here. Make sure you have enough financial savvy in dealing with investors and can relate educational outcomes, and investment into this, to the financial side.

We measure boredom – how quickly you get bored with repetitive work – which is hardly ever assessed but is an important trait to measure. The stand out point here was that Investors get bored more quickly than business owners and educationalists (however, not quicker than the best educationalists!) by a difference of 17%. 

Insight: Investors seem to need the stimuli – don’t ‘drone on’ about your fantastic idea but get that ‘elevator pitch’ nailed and grab their interest quickly!

Conflict areas: Investors getting involved (“meddling”) in the business may be as much a way to alleviate their boredom than a real desire to get involved.

Owners like to be in control and have their say; unsurprisingly, a full 20% more than those working in administration. However, Investors like to be in control still more – a note of caution to business owners when dealing with investors – they need that feeling of control more than you do!

Insight: Find a way to give investors a feeling of being in control (while also showing you are in control!)

Conflict areas: Investors will want to be in control and particular on the financials – this is a potential big conflict with educationalists who want to control learning outcomes and the greater good rather than simple financial metrics. Obviously, there will be a direct link between educational outcomes and ability to generate income, but this is less tangible for an investor – remember point 1 they’re also more neurotic!

5Inhibition vs Achievement

This is where it gets interesting. Most business research focusses on risk. We have focused on achievement and inhibition systems; the Behavioural Activation System (BAS), the desire to achieve things, and the Behavioural Inhibition System (BIS), the fear and “braking” system. Classic personality assessments rate these as opposite ends of one scale. We, however, measure these as two independent scales and this gives us more interesting information. 

To found a business, school or otherwise, we would assume one would need a strong motivational drive. However, when we look at our data on founders, we found they have no higher achievement drive than high performing corporate workers (and the best teachers also) on average. 

What becomes increasingly interesting is when we look at the inhibition system. Here, founders were much lower than every other group measured – with investors following a close second. These were, interestingly closely followed by the best teachers. Simply put, they had less ‘internal braking’ holding them back.

When we created a single figure: achievement minus inhibition, we created the most interesting statistic. This figure is interesting because these systems can balance each other out. For example, it is possible to have high achievement, desire to drive forward, but also high inhibition, the worry of messing things up.

When measuring this ‘stretch’ figure, as we termed it, founders were rated significantly higher than all other groups i.e. they had the biggest difference betweenachievement drive and inhibition. Investors came close to startup founders with only a 6% difference. But also interesting is that the data we had on model teachers also showed these as being high on this rating – showing they have drive to achieve and are willing to take on risk to do this.

Our data shows that educationalists differed little to founders, for example, but did have higher ratings on point 2. here (Learning) and point 7. (Greater Good). Interestingly though the differences were not very large but both startup founders and educationalists differed noticeably to corporate workers or employees at startups.

Insight. Team members, employees, and teachers will be more cautious despite having high achievement drives. You will need to spend time creating security and dealing with their concerns.

Conflict areas. School owners and investors may match nicely here and so will the best teachers. However, average teachers not so and their inhibition systems will be activated. Manage these well if in negotiations with investors – they will need comfort.


Safety we measure separately as the cognitive and biological basis can be considered different – but it is related to inhibition. Founders reported a substantial difference to the team, by a large margin of 17%, but the largest difference was to investors at 23%. Hence investors have a high desire to achieve, similar risk profiles, but also value safety much more – not surprisingly. So, creating a feeling of safety with investors is essential for founders.

Insight: Help create a feeling of safety for investors

Conflict: Don’t expect your employees, and particularly teachers to have the same risk profile as school owners or investors. They will feel insecure quickly and this can cause disruption quickly. This will need to be proactively managed.

Attachment ratings, relating to and bonding with other people, had significant differences between educationalists and investors. Teachers themselves (not in leadership positions) had the highest ratings. 

Attachment is important as a trait because it is this that also drives trust and loyalty (these are part of the same cognitive networks). It is not possible to have low attachment and high loyalty. Therefore, investors are likely, from their personalities, to have less trust and loyalty than owners. These differences with educational leadership having lower attachment in general and investors in turn lower still (both I note are not “low” ratings but just lower) – will have significant impacts on engagement, trust and how each view each other.

Insight: Owners, you will have to work harder to gain trust with investors

Conflict: There are clear conflicts here between educationalists naturally, and thankfully, focusing on the human side and investors on the financials. The teachers themselves, however, may be impacted more so and managing their concerns should be done proactively so as not to cause disruption.

8Greater Good
We measure a number of higher order values such as working for the Greater Good – and educationalists topped the rankings here followed by founders (but not necessarily their team members). Investors rated a full 21% lower than educationalists, and this hence points to their being less interested in doing good for the world. 

Insight: Don’t spend too much time on your greater good and charitable intentions (this may be dependent on investor type) when communicating to investors. Don’t ignore them either!

Conflict: Owners, school heads, teachers, and investors may end up talking at cross purposes here. The greater good is too big a concept for investors to focus on – this can cause conflict, misunderstanding and disruption. Craft messages clearly while connecting concepts.

9Logic vs Intuition
The logic and intuition ratings are also fascinating to look at. Generally, these are considered a sliding scale but here again we measure these separately as they are processed differently in the brain. A first insight in general is that high performers tend to have high intuition andhigh cognition. 

What we found is interesting and maybe dramatic. The best educationalists used their intuition slightly more than their cognition (but only slightly so). An interesting note is that model teachers had different logic/intuition profiles to poor performing teachers. Owners tend to use their cognition slightly more, but the best also have good levels of intuition. Investors, maybe counter-intuitively, use more intuition than logic (they still have high cognition ratings). Suggesting the investor has to feelthe decision is right. This means there is a certain match in cognitive processes between investors and educationalist but, importantly, their intuition may be aligned differently, remember investors are lower on attachment and the greater good hence focusing on feel of a person to deliver financial outcomes rather than charitable projects!

Insight: Be careful when talking just about facts to investors – but don’t go low on figures either! They want to see figures and facts but will go with their gut feeling in the end.

Conflict: Though cognitive models may be the same there is a potential mismatch in their focus points. Educationalists use their intuition in more human and charitable contexts than investors. Be careful to spot this and manage this well.

Measure and match for the best results

The reason we developed our unique Human Behavioural framework was to fully report human personality and use this to enable better outcomes for all stakeholders. A win-win-win situation. What is clear is that if we do not consider these subtle and not so subtle personality differences then mismatches can be potentially catastrophic:
A fantastic head of school for an independent school may not make a fantastic head for a large school group because of the change in dynamics, reporting structures and how their personality will respond to this (which may in turn have been what led to independent success). 

Similarly managing both investors and educators will need sensitivity to the differences – everybody understands that educational outcomes are important but natural focus and attention will sit in different places for very logical reasons. Managing this well can lead to working better together, more successful investments, and better integrations.

A final note is on that of culture and organisational culture – and yes, we have also developed a tool to match this and our personality assessments can match to your unique institutional culture. The same applies – mismatches here, irrespective of competence, can be catastrophic for investors, school groups, and those wishing to buy into these. Thinking about this and more importantly measuring this carefully is but a fraction of the costs at risk and money very well spent.

Visit leading-brains.com to see some samples of our assessments.

What is the Human Behavioural Framework?

This is a new way to measure personality, drives, values and also map to team friction and cohesion. 

We measure, in short assessments, more personality traits, group them differently, can measure personality over time and match to specific functions and roles in different contexts.

Our HBF is informed by evolutionary neuroscience and an analysis of dozens of other assessments and over 280 personality traits.

We also map to different phases of growth, and institutional culture and predict best traits for each phase or culture.

Learn more here: www.leading-brains.com

To discover more about how Leading Brains HBF assessments can add value in all parts of the investor-owner-educator value chain, and much more, have a look at our website or drop us a note!

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