The dynamics of entrepreneurial leadership over a new venture lifecycle

  • Kit Shun NG

    Student thesis: PhD Thesis


    Entrepreneurs, by default, are leaders of new ventures. Their leadership process and challenges apparently deviate from that of the corporate leaders in a different organizational context. The challenges are amplified by the dynamic and multi-stage entrepreneurial process of their new venture lifecycle in the course of just a few years. Although increasing research has examined the effective leadership style of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial ventures, the dynamic process of this leadership is still underexplored and remains elusive (Leitch & Volery, 2017). This doctoral thesis aims to unravel this dynamic entrepreneurial leadership process with three coherent papers from different perspectives.
    We begin with a systematic and critical literature review. Paper 1 (Chapter 4) examines how entrepreneurial leadership in the new venture context has been studied and what dynamic features have been captured in the extant literature. The results from 81 reviewed articles (identified through a multiple-step screening process) suggest that although a static approach has been the most prevalent approach to study entrepreneurial leadership, an increasing number of studies have recently taken a dynamic approach. By synthesizing these articles, we confirm the dynamic nature of entrepreneurial leadership in different stages of a new venture, and also identify a misrepresentation of the methodological approach (rooted in a positivist paradigm) to study this dynamic phenomenon. Based on the systematic literature review, three key research directions were identified: (1) a moving variable/construct approach to examine the basic level of entrepreneurial leadership attributes instead of a static style; (2) identifying key contextual factors in different stages and using multi-level context approach, and (3) a within-person process approach.
    Paper 2 (Chapter 5) examines the root cause of the dynamics, specifically, the “why” of the change and the mechanism behind the changes in entrepreneurial leadership traits as the venture transitions to new stages. Drawing on uncertainty theory, we used a longitudinal case study to illustrate that uncertainty, attributed to its transitory nature (Packard et al., 2017) and multifaceted characteristics (Miozzo & DiVito, 2020), is a key contextual factor that influences the changes or non-changes in entrepreneurial leadership traits. We also identified self-affirmation and its affect on entrepreneurial leaders in the context of high uncertainty. Building on self-affirmation theory, our conceptual framework unpacks the “black box” of the change mechanism of leader traits.
    Paper 3 (Chapter 6) is an empirical study that centres around how entrepreneurial leadership changes over the multistage entrepreneurial process by examining the change pattern and the salient role of leader traits in different stages. To do so, we presented a self-related, change-oriented, others-oriented and task-oriented (SCOT) framework of leader traits categories and took a within-person process approach to investigate multiple cases. Based on the evidence, we observed a combination and pattern of leader traits categories. Transition stages were also identified and were found to be associated with a specific category of leader traits (change-oriented).
    Overall, this thesis adds dynamics to the study of entrepreneurial leadership over a new venture lifecycle. Our two empirical studies (Paper 2 and 3) provide initial evidence on the theoretical reasoning (uncertainty construct), enabling mechanism (self-affirmation process), and pattern (SCOT framework) of the changes in the entrepreneurial leadership (leader traits) over the new venture lifecycle. We envision more collective research efforts to advance this field of knowledge.
    Date of Award13 Nov 2021
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Nottingham
    SupervisorPingping Fu (Supervisor), Michal Lemanski (Supervisor) & Jane Nolan (Supervisor)

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