Cross-Cultural Similarities and Differences in Characteristics Attributed to Entrepreneurs: A Three-Nation Study

By Gupta, Vishal; Fernandez, Cheryl | Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, February 2009 | Go to article overview

Cross-Cultural Similarities and Differences in Characteristics Attributed to Entrepreneurs: A Three-Nation Study


Gupta, Vishal, Fernandez, Cheryl, Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies


This study examines characteristics attributed to entrepreneurs in three countries and identifies similarities and differences in entrepreneurial characteristics across countries. Business students (N = 424) from India, Turkey, and the United States rated 92 descriptors of human attributes and behaviors. For each attribute, respondents rated how characteristic it was of an entrepreneur. We found that though some characteristics were attributed to entrepreneurs across national cultures, there were also important differences in characteristics attributed to entrepreneurs in the three cultures. Following from prior literature, we did not assume the North American perspective of the entrepreneur as universal, allowing us to better understand how people in different cultures view entrepreneurs. The identification of country-specific entrepreneurship concepts can be useful for researchers interested in studying entrepreneurship internationally and practitioners interested in encouraging and training entrepreneurs in different countries. Implications of our findings and directions for future research are discussed.

Keywords: entrepreneurial profile; characteristics and traits; international; India; Turkey; United States

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Entrepreneurs have long been recognized as leading drivers of economic growth and regional development (Chiles, Bluedorn, & Gupta, 2007; Schumpeter, 1934). In today's increasingly turbulent and competitive business environment, entrepreneurs-people who create new ventures--are necessary and important to start and lead firms that can compete successfully with national and international competitors (Ireland, Hitt, & Sirmon, 2003; Kuratko, 2007). Entrepreneurial leaders, such as Sam Walton, Michael Dell, and Steve Jobs, continue to be respected and revered for their leadership role in creating businesses that have created new jobs and facilitated national economic development. There are countless other entrepreneurs worldwide who have created new businesses (Venkataraman, 1997). The unique leadership demonstrated by entrepreneurs and the important role they play in economic development worldwide have led scholars to ask whether characteristics and attributes associated with entrepreneurship are similar or different across countries (Mitchell et al., 2004; Mueller & Thomas, 2001; Thomas & Mueller, 2000). This study examines cross-cultural similarities and differences in characteristics perceived to be associated with entrepreneurs in three different countries, namely, India, Turkey, and the United States.

Entrepreneurship researchers have generally assumed that characteristics associated with entrepreneurs in the United States, such as risk bearing (Knight, 1921), high need for achievement (McClelland, 1987), initiative taking (Shapero & Sokol, 1982), and innovativeness (Schumpeter, 1934), are universally ascribed to entrepreneurs (Hayton, George, & Zahra, 2002; Thomas & Mueller, 2000). However, research in cultural psychology questions this assumption. According to cultural psychologists, people construe themselves and others using context-specific concepts and other symbolic structures that are available to them (Kashima, 2005). The communities, societies, and cultural contexts in which people participate provide the interpretive frameworks--the theories, images, and concepts--by which people make sense, organize perceptions, and take action (Markus & Kitayama, 1998). If culture influences implicit theories and prototypical concepts associated with any object or person, it is likely that people in culturally different countries will attribute different characteristics or traits to entrepreneurs.

In this study we examine the implicit theories about entrepreneurs held by people in various countries. The relative scarcity of research on characteristics ascribed to entrepreneurs in different countries raises the question of what perceptions of entrepreneurship are like in other countries. …

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