Research Summary: We draw upon applied psychology literature to explore interagent differences in perceived risk to their equity when making strategic risk decisions. Our theory suggests behavioral agency's predicted negative relationship between equity risk bearing and strategic risk taking is contingent upon four personality traits. Our empirical analyses, based on personality profiles of 158 Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of S&P 1,500 firms in manufacturing industries, indicate the relationship between executive risk bearing and strategic risk taking crosses from negative to positive for high extraversion, greater openness, and low conscientiousness. These findings demonstrate that agency based predictions of CEO risk taking in response to compensation—and board attempts at creating incentive alignment using compensation—are enhanced by integrating insights from personality trait literature. Managerial Summary: We study the effect of CEO personality on their behavioral responses to stock option pay. Our findings reveal that CEOs that score high on extraversion or openness and low on conscientiousness are less likely to decrease their firm's strategic risk taking as the value of their stock options increases. That is, the tendency of CEOs to become more risk averse in their strategic choices as their option wealth increases (due to loss aversion) is weaker for highly extraverted and more open CEOs, but stronger for more conscientiousness CEOs. Overall, our findings suggest that board of directors need to consider personality traits of their CEOs when designing compensation packages with the intention to align incentives of CEOs with shareholder risk preferences.

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Keywords behavioral agency model, CEO compensation, CEO personality, strategic risk taking, upper echelons theory
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Journal Strategic Management Journal
Benischke, M.H, Martin, G.P. (Geoffrey P.), & Glaser, L. (2019). CEO equity risk bearing and strategic risk taking: The moderating effect of CEO personality. Strategic Management Journal, 40(1), 153–177. doi:10.1002/smj.2974