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  • 2020ChandranathanPhD

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The activity of entrepreneurial leadership

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date02/2020
Number of pages329
Awarding Institution
Award date20/11/2019
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Our knowledge of entrepreneurial leadership has advanced considerably, but research gaps persist. Namely, existing research has prioritized a focus on the individual, neglecting to consider how context may inform our understanding of entrepreneurial leadership. Particularly, we lack knowledge about how ownership can influence the form of social relations within Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), in terms of leadership or otherwise. Informed empirically by qualitative research with SME organizational members and theoretically by the notion of ‘activity’, this study addresses these gaps in the literature for entrepreneurial
leadership and makes four contributions to this body of work.

First, this study contributes a theoretical frame for studying entrepreneurial leadership as an ‘activity’ that is object-driven, mediated by social relations and tools, and contextualized within the capitalist labour process. I argue that this frame is a contribution as it allows us to account for ownership and its relational implications, understand and problematize the social relations between individuals in SME contexts, and understand the form of power relations between individuals in those contexts. Second, the study problematizes arguments in the literature that entrepreneurial leadership by an individual results in organization growth. Instead, it is argued that organization growth is the ‘object’ of the activity of entrepreneurial leadership, but a product of human labour that is fetishized in production. Third, the study problematizes the
significance of transformational leadership for understanding entrepreneurial leadership. Specifically, it is argued that transformational leadership may be relevant for understanding the concept of entrepreneurial leadership, but in the context of owner-managed SMEs, it potentially conceals and contradicts an underlying reality constituted by the capitalist-worker social relation, one that is characterized by exchange, exploitation, domination and struggle.

Lastly, this study offers a methodological contribution for how ‘context’ can be operationalized and explored in research for entrepreneurial leadership, in ways that may overcome the ‘heroic’ lustre imbued within existing understandings of it.