A New Paradigm: Entrepreneurial Leadership

Article excerpt

As the 1990's gave way to the next millennium, the current social, economic, and political environments were constantly being affected by the actions of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial ventures. The current literature in entrepreneurship devotes considerable discussion to the role entrepreneurs play within their businesses and as opinion leaders in their markets and the general economy. Often described as innovators, paradigm pioneers, and visionaries, entrepreneurs are confronted with the issue of developing leadership qualities in order to grow their businesses and to transform them to a level of professionalism.

Since the 1980's, an increased level of entrepreneurial activity has spawned, not only because of the electronic age but due to a plethora of new materials, products, financial networks, joint venture possibilities, and paradigmatic changes in politics, economics, and societies. It appears a whole new remodeling of the ways in which business, communication, and government are conducted has emerged. Thus, it is imperative for anyone involved in entrepreneurial ventures, especially the entrepreneur, to fully comprehend the impor-tance of sound leadership practices.

This article attempts to reveal those characteristics common to both successful leaders and entrepreneurs who operate in dynamic, changing environments. It also attempts to show the characteristics entrepreneurs use to cope with their need to excel and explore new vistas. In essence, it seeks to demonstrate a new style of evolving leadership, entrepreneurial leadership, which offers a break from the past and movement into the future.

Literature Review

Entrepreneur ship is a relatively new, sometimes controversial, and burgeoning field of management research. Leadership has been studied since around 500 BC. New to the field is the subject of entrepreneurial leadership. Both entrepreneurship and leadership will be briefly discussed in turn.


Selection of the appropriate basis for defining and understanding entrepreneurs created a challenging problem for entrepreneurial research. More than ten years ago, the field of research -was described as young, i.e., in its formative stage (Paulin, Coffey, & Spaulding, 1982; Perryman, 1982; Peterson & Horvath, 1982; Sexton, 1982). Even now, no generally accepted definition of an entrepreneur exists, and the literature is replete with criteria ranging from creativity and innovation to personal traits such as appearance and style. Models of the entrepreneur are almost as plentiful as the number of researchers studying entrepreneurs (Churchill & Lewis, 1986; Cunningham & Lischeron, 1991).

Krackhardt (1995) stated that research on entrepreneurship has defined entrepreneurship in two ways, the entrepreneurial firm and entrepreneurial people. Entrepreneurial firms are small (Aldrich & Austen, 1986), fast-growing (Drucker, 1985), organic, and network-based rather than mechanistic and bureaucratic (Birley, 1986). In studying work flow leadership, a form of firm-level entrepreneurship, Sayles and Stewart (1995) defined entrepreneurship as having three components:

(1) it is activity that seizes profit opportunities without regard to resources currently controlled (Stevenson & Jarillo, 1990);

(2) it expands existing resources through enhanced learning, synergies, or bootstrapping (Burgelman, 1983; Leibstein, 1968; Stewart, 1989; Venkataraman, McMillan & McGrath, 1992); and

(3) it promotes change and innovation leading to new combinations of resources and new ways of doing business (Burgelman, 1983; Schumpeter, 1943).

Entrepreneurial people take advantage of opportunities to acquire added value. This definition sees entrepreneurship as a behavioral characteristic of employees and managers in a firm, not as a characteristic of the firm itself.

Stevenson, Roberts, and Grousbeck (1989) argued that entrepreneurship is an approach to management. …