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Entrepreneurial leadership strategies and values: keys to operational excellence.


The past century is only a blink of history's eye. However, during that period of time the world has been transformed by profound innovations and technological developments. A century ago, there were no safe and effective antibiotics, no jet travel, no commercial television, and no computers, to cite a few examples. Many died of routine infections. A five-day ocean voyage was the main way to travel between North America and Europe, and "wireless" meant the wood-paneled radio sitting in the parlor. Since then, mastery of the physical and biological world has strengthened enormously--primarily driven by the entrepreneurial innovators who were willing to risk and invest their energies for worthy causes (Mandel, 2004: 92-93). And the world today is a better place, and offers to entrepreneurial leaders a future full of exciting opportunities for dream fulfillment (Wilkinson, 2003: 70).

Entrepreneurship is fundamentally a way of thinking that bridges innovative discoveries with need fulfillment. For example, to make life easier and add to the family income, home makers are becoming entrepreneurial in many unforeseen ways (Zimmerman, 2004: A1, A16). Today, even medical doctors, attorneys and other professionals are learning to think entrepreneurially--and build better practices and organizations in the process (Henricks, 2004: 84). This particular historical context offers, as have few other times in recorded human history, advantages for creative entrepreneurs who can properly identify these evolving opportunities and translate them into meaningful organizational achievements.

Concept of Entrepreneurial Leadership

In essence, successful entrepreneurial leadership can generally be thought of as leading, through direct involvement, a process that creates value for organizational stakeholders by bringing together a unique innovation and package of resources to respond to a recognized opportunity. In fulfilling this process, entrepreneurs function within a paradigm of three dimensions: innovativeness, risk-taking, and proactiveness (Morris, Schindehutte and LaForge, 2004: 92). Innovativeness focuses on the search for creative and meaningful solutions to individual and operational problems and needs. Risk-taking involves the willingness to commit resources to opportunities that have a reasonable possibility of failure. Proactiveness is concerned with implementation, and helping to make events happen through appropriate means, which typically include the efforts of others. This perspective takes into account the entrepreneur, the individuals with whom the entrepreneur is directly involved, and the broader "community" of supporters in which the entrepreneur is embedded (Stevenson, 2004: 3). An individual typically identifies an opportunity to be pursued and then, as an entrepreneur, must surround himself/herself with individuals to help make it happen and provide the leadership necessary to develop those individuals while nurturing excellence in the organization.

The practice of successful entrepreneurial leadership is thereby fulfilled within an array of exciting activities and new creative developments--full of innovations and evolving concepts, constantly changing, and in many cases eluding classification. The interactive nature of these interpersonal activities means that any organizational framework created for them must nurture and allow for constant change and, in many cases, the consequent conflicts that evolve (Welsh and Maltarich, 2004: 57; Darling, Keeffe and Olney, 2005: 52-53).

Entrepreneurial leadership is all about breaking new ground, going beyond the known, and helping to create the future. It is also about helping people to settle into new opportunities that give them joy and hope for the future (McLagan and Nel, 1995: 46). What makes a truly successful entrepreneurial leader is not narrowly focused on only intelligence, education, lifestyle or background. A principal factor that seems to determine success is the entrepreneur's ability to effectively deal with opportunities through the dynamics of an organizational setting, thereby enabling and motivating the people concerned to be actively and enthusiastically involved and successful. Entrepreneurs who strive to establish a setting that is supportive of associates and their development also help to instill within those individuals a loyalty that will serve to enhance the continued achievement of organizational excellence and the operational success of that organization.

A primary factor that prevents the creation of a culture of excellence within many entrepreneurial firms is that they are often overmanaged and underled. Entrepreneurs, as managers within these organizations, may excel in the ability to handle the daily routine, yet never question whether the routine should be done at all. In this regard, there is a profound difference between entrepreneurial management and entrepreneurial leadership, but one should readily recognize that both are important, and both typically exist in successful entrepreneurs. To manage means to bring about, to accomplish, to have responsibility for, to conduct. To lead means to influence, to guide in direction, course, action, or opinion (Bennis and Nanus, 1985: 21-23). The distinction is crucial. Entrepreneurial managers are people who do things right, and entrepreneurial leaders are people who do the right things. The difference may be summarized as activities of controlling resources, and mastering procedures and routines, which facilitate efficiency as a manager, versus communication, coordination and extensive networking among people, which facilitate effectiveness as a leader.

Thus, the degree to which entrepreneurial managers are also entrepreneurial leaders relates to how they understand and carry out their roles. Those who are successful view themselves as leaders, not just managers. This is to say that they focus their concern on their organization's excellence in all respects. Their perspective is vision-oriented. Therefore, they do not limit their attention to the how-to, the proverbial nuts and bolts, but include the parameters of action which involves doing the right things.

A primary test of successful leadership as an entrepreneur lies in giving, to the greatest extent possible, opportunities to others within the situational context of the organization. This helps enormously in the process of providing meaning and a sense of worth--thus, an increased level of commitment--for people in an organization (Frankl, 1959: 8-9). One does not have to be brilliant to be a successful entrepreneurial leader; but entrepreneurial leaders do have to understand other people--how they feel and the most effective ways to influence them. For example, in many studies of leadership in an entrepreneurship context, it has been shown that the average entrepreneur spends most of the working day dealing with people. The largest single cost in most entrepreneurial organizations is people. The most important and most valuable asset any such organization has is its people. All entrepreneurial plans for the enhancement of excellence are carried out, or fail to be carried out, by people (Nurmi and Darling, 1997: 55-56). Sam Walton, entrepreneurial founder of Wal-Mart, recognized the importance of this which prompted him to spend a great deal of his time traveling and meeting with associates in various locations of Wal-Mart stores (Hisrich, Peters and Shepherd, 2005: 512).

Primary Reflections of Excellence

Research by the authors indicates that the primary bases upon which an entrepreneurial organization is considered to be excellent focus on four primary elements. Whether the organization is large or small, broadly based in several market segments or only a few, these primary reflections of excellence are of major importance to success (see Figure 1). The organization must first focus on the set of customers who are or will be served by the innovation. Usually these customers are defined as individuals existing in the external marketplace, but they may also be located in another venue, such as within a particular operational area of the organization. The organization must also have a consistent innovative culture that nurtures and facilitates creative thinking and development. These are basic to success in the implementation of successful innovations, to achieving long-term superior performance, and to sustaining a strategic competitive position and advantage in the marketplace.

These two elements--care of customers and constant innovation--obviously do not constitute all that is needed. Sound accounting and financial controls are essential. Entrepreneurial organizations that do not have them fail. Good planning is certainly not a luxury but a necessity. Moreover, entrepreneurial-based firms can be temporarily or permanently influenced by external forces, such as currency values or the loss of access to needed resources. Nevertheless, financial controls are vital, but the firm does not succeed with financial controls, it succeeds because of the innovative value it creates in the marketplace. An entrepreneurial firm seldom sustains superior performance through mere access to resources; it sustains this through quality innovations in resource acquisition and use, and subsequent market development. The firm may be affected by changes in financial and other indicators, but it sustains performance by adding enough value to an innovative product or service that is then profitably saleable despite monetary variability (Drucker, 1985: 155-58).


In reality, however, it turns out that neither superior care of customers nor constant innovation--two of the three cutting and sustaining edges of excellence in an entrepreneurial organization--are built upon the entrepreneur's genius, unusual operational techniques, or mystical strategic moves or countermoves in the marketplace. Both are built, instead, upon the existence of committed people which evolves from a solid foundation of listening, trust and respect for the dignity and the creative potential of each person in the organization (see Figure 1). This foundation facilitates the establishment of a "winning team" of people committed to the achievement of the operational goals and objectives of the organization.

Most entrepreneurial-type firms that are successful in creating a culture of excellence do so not by their cleverness, but by the fact that each and every aspect of the organization is better than is normally expected. So the keys to organizational excellence within an entrepreneurship setting focus on three variables: care of customers, constant innovation, and committed people. Yet in this model of excellence, something is still missing--that one element which connects all the others. As Figure 1 shows, that one element is effective management leadership; and it is through the leadership strategies that the entrepreneur helps to facilitate the reflection of excellence (Cornesky et al., 1990: 58-59; Peters and Austin, 1985: 5-6).

For example, in the 20 years that Jack Welch led GE, he imbued his organization with an energy and culture that brought him recognition as an entrepreneurial leader in the development of what became known as the deepest array of executive talent in U.S. business. Through his own dynamic, interactive personality, use of memorable slogans, and a rigorous performance system that required every managerial leader to become a mentor, Welch turned a disparate conglomerate into a global teaching organization. He understood that great managerial leadership talent was at least as important as great innovative products (Brady, 2004: 20).

Primary Leadership Strategies

Today's entrepreneurial leader requires a new kind of person who does not depend on organizational superiority and subordination. These contemporary leaders help to create enhanced capacity in their people, who in turn become the stewards of all the organization's stakeholders (McLagan and Nel, 1995: 46-47). In achieving organizational excellence, an entrepreneurial leader is thereby a person who inspires, by appropriate means, a level of competence necessary to influence a group of individuals to become willing participants in the fulfillment of innovational goals. But what are these means? By what means can mixed or perhaps even negative feelings be turned into affection and loyalty? What enables an entrepreneur to lead effectively? The authors' research has focused on the foundation of successful entrepreneurial leadership in the achievement of organizational excellence. Data were collected primarily from well-known entrepreneurs identified during the past five years in various publications such as Business Week, The Economist, Entrepreneur, Financial Times, Fortune, Herald Tribune, New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.


These are entrepreneurs who have been involved in directing the new trends in operational success through the enhancement of organizational excellence. These are people creating new ideas, new products and services, new policies, and new procedures. They have the reputation for bringing change through the basic foundations of excellence in their organizations. These leaders are viewed as creative change agents, not simply masters of basic routines. Although all of these men and women are successful in their own way, and within their own situational setting, they share, to a large degree, four characteristic leadership strategies. These four entrepreneurial leadership strategies are attention through vision, meaning through communication, trust through positioning, and confidence through respect (Nurmi and Darling, 1997: 56-62) (see Figure 2).

Attention through Vision

The management of attention through vision creates a focus for the organization. A manager is expected to carry out assigned functions and responsibilities in any organization. But successful leaders in entrepreneurial management do more than that. They are acutely aware that there are customers in the marketplace for new innovative products and services, the use of which can help solve their problems. In addition, entrepreneurial leaders are sensitive to the fact that everything related to their responsibilities and the functions of their organization might be done faster, better, more reliably, with fewer errors, and at a lower cost. These are the innovative drumbeats to which they march. They carry them constantly in mind, looking for and considering many possible answers. They are continually looking for problems that need solving rather than merely solving the problems that come their way. They search for opportunities when others feel that possibilities are exhausted. They are creative change agents because they want to find better ways of doing things and really work at it. For example, beginning in the early 1970s Frederick Smith's FedEx sparked an innovative revolution in just-in-time delivery that also eventually involved other firms such as UPS and DHL. By the late 1970s, America had come to rely on FedEx's ability to deliver goods overnight--including such things as spare parts, urgent business documents, and eleventh-hour birthday gifts (Foust, 2004: 18).

Entrepreneurial leaders have an agenda--a vision that takes their organizations beyond the horizon. These visions are compelling and pull people towards them like a gigantic magnet. The intensity of a leader's vision, coupled with commitment, is exciting and contagious. And these intense personalities do not have to coerce people to pay attention; they are so intent on what they are doing that, like a person enthusiastically absorbed with a new innovative product or service, they draw others in. Vision grabs attention! Initially it grabs the entrepreneur, but then the appropriate leadership of this attention encourages others to make a commitment to organizational achievement. Robert Kennedy made it popular, but George Bernard Shaw said it long ago: "Some see things as they are, and ask, why? I prefer to see things as they might be, and ask, why not?" Successful entrepreneurial leaders look at what they consider to be their vision and the possibilities of what their organizations can achieve, and having done this, commit themselves and their firms to the discipline that is necessary to make these visions a reality.

Meaning through Communication

Among different entrepreneurial organizations there are many interesting and exciting visions and noble intentions. Many entrepreneurs have important and very meaningful objectives--visions of what their organizations can do and become--but without effective communication very little will be realized. Success in entrepreneurial leadership requires the capacity to relate a compelling image of a desired innovative achievement--the kind of image that induces enthusiasm, expectation and commitment in others. The management of meaning, focusing on the mastery of communication, is inseparable from effective leadership and entrepreneurial success (Nurmi and Darling, 1997: 58).

There are a number of issues relating to effective communication (Bennis and Nanus, 1985: 39-41). First, a successful entrepreneurial organization depends on the existence of shared meanings and interpretations of reality, which facilitate coordinated action. Individuals become what they think about, and therefore meaningful communication becomes of major importance in focusing on primary themes of achievement in the organization. Leaders articulate and define what may have previously remained implicit or unsaid; then they create perspectives which provide a visionary focus. By so doing, they consolidate or challenge prevailing wisdom. In short, an essential factor in entrepreneurial leadership is the capacity to influence and organize meaning for the personnel of the organization.

Second, the methods by which entrepreneurial leaders convey and shape meaning vary enormously. Despite the variations in style, and whether verbal or nonverbal, every successful entrepreneur is aware that an organization is based on a set of shared meanings which defines roles and authority, procedures and objectives. Third, what is meant by the creation of meaning goes beyond what is usually meant by communication, focusing on more than facts or even knowledge. Facts and knowledge have to do with what to do and how to do things. The unique role of entrepreneurial leadership is the quest for the know-why ahead of the know-how. J.W. (Bill) Marriott, Jr., son of the founder of the Marriott Hotels and Resorts, is an exceptional entrepreneurial communicator who has given a great deal of emphasis and focus to this important element of leadership in his organization (Marriott and Brown, 1997: 6-8).

The greatest freedom that people have is the freedom to choose; and one of the most important choices that individuals within an entrepreneurially based firm make is what to think and believe (Darling, 2004: 1-2). Information provides the context in which people work. People need to access and use information via the communication process in order to take charge of their own work life. Such access and use go hand in hand with the commitment and empowerment of people, and their accountability for organizational excellence (McLagan and Nel, 1995: 47-48). Communication is thereby the primary way in which any group of individuals, small or large, can become aligned behind the over-arching innovative goals of the organization. Getting the correct and intended message across at every level is an important key. Basically, it is what the creative process is all about and what constitutes a primary focus and what, once again, helps to separate entrepreneurial managers from entrepreneurial leaders.

Trust through Positioning

Discipline is the price that entrepreneurial leaders must pay to be successful--the discipline to acquire the knowledge, to develop the skills and understanding, and to nurture a consistency of being that builds trust among people in the organization. Trust is thereby a facilitator that helps to make it possible for an organization to function effectively. Trust implies accountability, predictability and reliability. It is what helps to make innovative products and services successful. Trust provides the foundation that maintains organizational integrity. It is known when it is present and when it is not; it is also essential that it be based on predictability. The truth is that people who are predictable--whose positions are known and have continuity--are trusted. Entrepreneurial leaders who are trusted make themselves known and make their positions clear in all operational arenas of the organization. Trust through positioning is achieved by means of a consistency in value-reflection by entrepreneurial leaders.

In various entrepreneurship situations, it is not what happens, but what entrepreneurial leaders do about it that counts (Darling, 2004: 4). The day-in-day-out activities of leadership have their mountains and valleys, but the successful leader is one who, throughout these variations in conditions, reflects a high degree of positional consistency. Positioning encompasses the set of actions necessary to implement the vision of the entrepreneur. Through establishing his/her position--and, more important, maintaining continuity--the entrepreneur establishes trust. Herb Kelleher, former entrepreneurial CEO of Southwest Airlines, an energetic and successful leader of the first order, built one of the most profitable airlines currently operating in the U.S. His philosophy was to establish a trust in his people and they will return that trust. Kelleher has said, "We follow a policy of ready, fire, aim, because in our business if you don't fire you'll never get the chance to aim. We tell our people to go ahead and do something--we'll perfect it later" (Nelson and Bell, 2004: 13).

A major key to the process of establishing trust through positioning is integrity, reflected in honesty and frankness, properly clothed in tact (Bennis and Biederman, 1997: 200-1). Words associated with integrity are themselves interesting: the quality of being complete, unimpaired, moral soundness, honesty, freedom from corrupting influence or practice, and predictable strictness in the fulfillment of contracts and the discharge of trusts. There is no greater need in entrepreneurial leaders than the need for integrity, for being true to trust. Integrity is simply something that a person is within. It is, in a sense, the assurance that what one sees, what is said to be, is something that can be counted on, without qualification. Integrity in the entrepreneurial leadership position leads to trust by those individuals counted on to facilitate achievement of excellence in the operations of the organization.

Confidence through Respect

When the freedom of choice is recognized and accepted in the organization, entrepreneurial leaders and followers must accept the right of both to choose (McLagan and Nel, 1995: 219). Respect is thereby a choice. Respect is a choice made by followers, and in most cases it is based upon the confidence they have in a leader's knowledge and ability to make appropriate decisions (choices) regarding the continuing operations of the organization. It is important to recognize the fact that successful entrepreneurial leaders spend the vast majority (some more than 90 percent) of their time with others, and concerned with issues relating to people. An analysis of the leadership style of these entrepreneurs suggests that a key factor in building confidence through respect focuses on the meaningful deployment of self. The creative deployment of self makes entrepreneurial leadership a deeply personal activity because of the foundation on which it must exist--a positive self-regard (Maxwell, 1995: 10-11). A positive self-regard seems to consist of three major components: knowledge of one's own strengths; the capacity to develop those strengths; and the ability to discern the fit between one's strengths and the organization's needs (Bennis and Nanus, 1985: 61-62).

Entrepreneurial leaders who establish and maintain a high degree of respect from their associates have an unusual ability to bring out the best in others through the inducement of a positive other-regard in their colleagues and employees. They see latent talent and encourage it; they listen to those around them, and they realize that a person's inability to do one job does not mean that that individual is incompetent in all jobs. The creation of confidence through respect thereby becomes contagious within the organization. Regarding this, Thomas Meredith, Managing Director of Dell Ventures, looks for highly intelligent folks who also are very intellectually and respectfully curious. They must have a sense of urgency about what they do, be results-driven and communicate clearly. In addition, they should be driven by a passion for not being just part of the future, but helping create the future. "We want those for whom cultural boundaries don't exist, who think globally and act locally, and who excel in specialties but see links with others" (Nelson and Bell, 2004: 143).

A significant element affected by entrepreneurial leaders focuses on the thought paradigms established within the organization. Confidence in the ability to achieve worthy objectives is an important foundational cue, and confidence is nurtured by respect. Respect is thereby based upon the perspective of self-worth. The verb respect means "to appreciate the value of." In the human being, respect is a major characteristic of successful entrepreneurial leadership. It provides the basis for one's ability to genuinely appreciate the unique talents and abilities of oneself and others in the organization, and to accomplish worthy goals in an organization and thereby the reflections of excellence by that organization.

Key Leadership Values

Values are deep and often invisible controlling forces within an entrepreneurial organization, and there is no more important set of values than that set recognized as leadership values. Values are thereby foundational attitudes that affect behaviors or states of affairs and are of major importance to successful entrepreneurial leadership. In a general sense, these values may focus on such perspectives as fairness, justice, honesty, discipline, freedom, equality, humanitarianism, loyalty, patriotism, progress, self-fulfillment, pragmatism, courtesy, politeness and cooperation (Yukl, 1998: 234). These are obviously important personal as well as professional values, and in most cases are inseparable from the involvement of a successful entrepreneurial leader in the arena of personal activities as well as in the professional arena. Accordingly, the place to focus on leadership values is within the individual--those points of reference that reside deep within that person. As the leader is centered on correct value-driven principles, and is able to organize and execute around the priorities of organizational excellence with integrity, that person makes choices to build meaningful, enduring and productive relationships with his/her operational team of individuals in the organization.

Value programming is a significant factor in the development of successful entrepreneurial leaders. This value programming is a term used to highlight the extent to which forces outside the individual shape and mold leadership values. An important thing to keep in mind is the fact that although a person's values can change throughout one's life, these values are relatively firmly established relatively early in life (Hughes, Ginnett and Curphy, 1999: 167). However, the purpose here is not to discuss the development of values, but to answer the question, What values are of primary importance to the successful implementation of leadership strategies that facilitate the achievement of excellence in an entrepreneurial organization? The authors' research on entrepreneurial leadership has determined that there is a paradigm of four basic values that comprise important keys to strategic success and achievement of organizational excellence--joy, hope, charity and peace.

The primary measure of quality in entrepreneurial leadership is the degree to which the leader enables the other individuals in the organization to be successful. In other words, an important objective of the leader must be that of helping others to achieve success in their professional (and to a degree, personal) arena of life. This success is measured by such factors as personal achievement, professional satisfaction, job fulfillment, emotional health, and perhaps even the ability to cope with illness and other hardships or disappointments. Those entrepreneurial leaders who are the most successful in achieving this do so through the four leadership strategies noted above. Such entrepreneurial leaders are not necessarily the smartest, the best educated, the most experienced, the highest paid, the most gifted, or those with the greatest combination of talents and abilities. They are, however, the leaders who possess and reflect in their leadership roles the greatest combination of joy, hope, charity and peace (also see Batten, 1989: 129-32; and Snyder, 1994: 86-95) (see Figure 3).


In this context, joy is defined as the radiation from within of a spirit of genuine friendliness, cheerfulness and positiveness. Hope is defined as the belief that one can set goals, figure out how to achieve them, and generate the appropriate motivation to accomplish them. Charity is defined as one's reflection to other living things of a spirit of patience, kindness, appreciation, acceptance and support. Peace is defined as a general freedom from unnecessary self-imposed conflict, as well as a sense of personal worth, well-being and security. Successful entrepreneurial leaders realize that these values should be precision instruments that inspire, unify and stretch. They believe that leaders who are value-driven are not necessarily thought of by their associates as leading the parade at all; they are followers of the parade. Truly successful entrepreneurial leaders nurture an organization that is fundamentally value-led.

Values of Joy and Hope

A key to the nurturing of joy within the entrepreneurial leadership setting is the establishment of a friendly and supportive organizational culture. Individuals working in this type of environment typically look forward to coming to work and achieving excellence in their productive activities. The entrepreneurial leaders so involved in this setting believe that the more people put in--or give--to work and to their life, the more they receive. Also, giving typically yields more real pleasure. Opportunities that people have to express their talents and abilities within the organizational setting bring with them the joy of creating--of producing, as it were, something that is uniquely the product of their giftedness (Kelley and Spencer, 2000: 18). In addition, entrepreneurial leaders so involved and committed relish continuously giving earned praise. Leaders in this setting also seek the involvement of their people in developing their goals and plans, not only because they want to use all the talents within their organization, but also because they know that people will be more committed to meeting these objectives if they have a part in determining them.

Such entrepreneurial leaders also have the courage to let people make mistakes, thereby establishing a safe/fail rather than a fail/safe organization. A case in point is Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines, noted earlier. They recognize that people learn by doing and so if they do anything they are occasionally going to make some mistakes. By recognizing this, successful entrepreneurial leaders also delegate better. In addition, these leaders believe and live the concept that the development of people, as a whole and in depth, pays real dividends to both the organization and the individual. These leaders enjoy life--and their people know it! The thought processes of these entrepreneurial leaders focus on feelings of accomplishment. They increasingly search and seek out new problem-oriented opportunities and strength-building challenges--and their people genuinely appreciate it.

Steve Jobs, the co-founder and chief executive of Apple Computer, more than anyone else, has brought digital technology to the masses. As a visionary, this entrepreneurial leader saw that computers could be much more than drab productivity tools. Instead, they could help unleash human creativity and sheer enjoyment. A marketing genius, he conceived of innovative products that captured consumers' imaginations. And as a relentless perfectionist, he came up with creations that actually delivered on their promise--raising the bar for competitors. And perhaps most of all, his people believed in him and his entrepreneurial leadership skills. In addition to his Apple Computer leadership, he has brought exciting entrepreneurial leadership to such innovative efforts as NeXT and Pixar, and then returned to Apple where he quickly breathed life back into the organization with the customer-oriented iMac, after which came the iPod and then iTunes innovations (Burrows, 2004: 20).

A key to the nurturing of hope in the organization focuses on the creation of an optimistic and "can-do" entrepreneurial culture. Successful entrepreneurs believe the present is not merely a state of being to be endured, nor is the future to be feared. Rather, in hope the present is to be transformed and the future welcomed (Spencer, 1996: 22). Leaders in this setting are anxious for improvement, growth and a better way--and with a foundation that says, "We can do it!" They have a strong commitment to constantly stretching and reaching for the best. These entrepreneurs have a broad perspective, read widely, and have their own personal-development program. They believe that a broad and eclectic fund of knowledge makes for not only a better generalist, but also a better specialist. They see the broad picture, look beyond their own arena of activity to think in terms of the customer--the ultimate reason for their jobs. They also think positively, believing negativism is seldom justified. They know that there are plus and minus elements in many situations but that the minus areas can usually be converted into pluses. Entrepreneurs in this setting manage by example. They know that the actions of a responsible leader are contagious, and that there is virtually no limit to potential accomplishment if leaders set the example of looking for strengths and advantages, and expecting the best--a further reflection of how one becomes what one thinks about. Such entrepreneurs know that perhaps one of the finest gifts you can give another person is the gift of a "stretching of expectation" based on hope, and a never-ending appreciation for that person's strengths and personal worth and contributions to the organization.

Values of Charity and Peace

To appreciate and sense the importance of oneself and, at the same time, subordinate oneself to higher purposes and principles is the paradoxical essence of humanity and the foundation of effective entrepreneurial leadership (Covey, 1992: 19). Thus, a key to the value paradigm of charity is the perspective that "I'm OK and you're OK too" (Harris, 1969: 50-53). Successful entrepreneurial leaders demonstrate appreciation and caring. Their voices and manners project relaxation and a positive concern. These leaders want associates to grow and benefit, thereby being committed to the development of the individuals with whom they are organizationally involved. In so doing, successful entrepreneurs have a fused and focused oneness of purpose, effort and direction. They meet commitments, keep their word, and can be relied upon, and expect the same from others in the organization.

In nurturing the value of charity in the organization, entrepreneurial leaders provide for a psychic as well as a real wage for their people because they recognize psychological as well as physical needs. Their focus is on the whole person. Concern and sensitivity for the well-being and development of others are of major importance. Entrepreneurs help to create a caring organizational climate through their own role modeling. Discipline is at the heart of this value. Successful entrepreneurs practice self-discipline and bring a focus on discipline to the organizational culture. These leaders know that a sensitivity and recognition of the personal worth of associates is meaningful, realistic and workable, and that there is no appropriate substitute for it. Candor is an important aspect of concern. Such leaders practice truth rigorously and reflect a true warmth of feeling toward their associates. They have the discipline to say what ought to be said, but practice positive warmth in the process. Charity as a key leadership value is inseparable from accountability. Successful entrepreneurial leaders believe people are more efficient and happier when they understand clearly what results are expected of them and when they are involved in determining those results.

The core values and enduring purpose of Marriott Hotels and Resorts bring to the surface a particularly interesting focus to this leadership value of charity. The stated and displayed core values of Marriott are "Concern for Employees, Commitment to Continuous Improvement and Overcoming Adversity, and Dedication to Hard Work and Having Fun While Doing It." In harmony with these core values, Marriott's stated and displayed core purpose is to "Make people away from home feel that they are among friends and are really wanted." One of the guiding principles of the firm is "Strength Beyond Presence of Any One Individual." Marriott thereby also demonstrates the interesting and crucial distinction between a company with visionary leadership and a visionary company. The sign of a recognized entrepreneurial leader such as Bill Marriott is not in being indispensable, but in building a company that will surpass itself in subsequent generations (Marriott and Brown, 1997: 4, 72-73).

The entrepreneurial leadership value of peace has its primary focus on positive recognition and appreciation of the personal worth of oneself and others. These leaders enable their associates to have a sense of personal worth and appreciation for their fit and contributions within the organization. They know that the actions of a responsible entrepreneurial leader are contagious, and that there is virtually no limit to potential accomplishments of the organization if leaders set the example of looking for strengths and expecting the best of their people. This does not mean that entrepreneurs nurture peace as a means for being satisfied with what exists and a substitute for stretch goals and accomplishments of innovative developments. Creative and meaningful visionary thinking by the leader creates a peaceful dissatisfaction with the present, thereby providing the basic energy, life and stretch for pulling the organization toward the future. Positive people will intuitively respond to a leader's positive dreams and expectations built on an appreciation for what the individuals and organization have been, are, and can be in the future.

Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, reflects this positive attitude and leadership value. Microsoft, as the world's largest software company, has often been accused of piggybacking on the innovations of other firms rather than inventing itself. It has even been accused of using its market clout to suppress creations from rivals. However, Gates was among the first to recognize that all sorts of companies and products would be created if a computer's operating system and all the other software programs were separated from the hardware. With this innovative dream, and organization he developed based upon a strong commitment to these leadership values, Bill Gates is credited with turning the disorganized PC industry of the late 1970s into today's huge industry, affecting the net worth of numerous organizations (Greene, 2004: 18).

Excellent entrepreneurial leaders concentrate on creating positive results and the commensurate reflections of excellence. These leaders believe that people are on the payroll for one primary reason--to make a meaningful contribution to organizational objectives and to develop their own value to themselves and the organization. Therefore, leaders are the means for creating an appreciative and peaceful discontent within the organization for the status quo. In some cases, implementation of the value of peace requires that to nurture an excellence-oriented entrepreneurial workplace, the leader must occasionally make difficult decisions regarding the employment requirements for associates. But this is done with patience and concern for the well-being of the organization and the individuals involved. And in an orderly and caring manner, the leader continues to reinforce the basic value structure for the organization. In so doing, the successful entrepreneur is also an accomplished conflict manager as well as crisis manager (see Darling, Keeffe, and Olney, 2005: 53).

Summary and Conclusions

Entrepreneurial leadership values and strategies are the primary competitive advantages that differentiate one organization from another (Nurmi and Darling, 1997: xiii). These values and strategies are, in turn, the keys to achievement of excellence in the entrepreneurial organization. Success in fulfilling leadership responsibilities in today's innovative organization is not a destination at which one arrives, but a manner of traveling that beckons each person into the future. To be a successful entrepreneur today requires from each one the very best that person has to give, and a constant awareness of one's own capabilities and a commitment to oneself and to others to fulfill expectations.

An analysis of the leadership exhibited by successful entrepreneurs in all arenas of endeavor indicates that there are four primary reflections of excellence which these leaders help to achieve for their respective organizations: care of customers, constant innovation, committed people, and management leadership. Successful leadership, while highly situational within the context of a particular entrepreneurial organization, has been found to be based upon four key strategies: attention through vision, meaning through communication, trust through positioning, and confidence through respect. Successful entrepreneurial leaders make sure that their organization's philosophy, mission, and objectives are researched, developed and clearly communicated. They believe the philosophy and mission must pervade and saturate everything in the organization and form the foundation of its innovation-related culture.

Research by the authors indicates that the leadership values of joy, hope, charity and peace provide the foundational paradigm for the implementation of successful entrepreneurial leadership strategies and the commensurate achievement of excellence by the organization. Those entrepreneurs who achieve the greatest level of success in fulfillment of these leadership strategies are not necessarily the smartest, the richest, the most educated, the most gifted, or those with the greatest combination of talents and abilities. They are the individuals who seem to possess the greatest combination of these four leadership values. Successful entrepreneurial leaders are thereby value-based visionaries and communicators, functioning from a position of trust and confidence conveyed upon them by the individuals with whom they're involved in the organization. They know that the individuals within the firm will contribute and receive more if they are supported in developing clear feelings of purpose, direction, dignity and expectation within an organizational culture of appreciation, recognition and support. The authors welcome the comments and observations of other scholars and practitioners of entrepreneurial leadership.


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Contact Information

For further information on this article, contact

John R. Darling, Distinguished Visiting Professor of Management, McCoy College of Business

Administration, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX 78666

Tel: 512-245-2571/Fax: 512-245-2850


Michael J. Keeffe, Associate Professor of Management, McCoy College of Business

Administration, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX 78666

Tel: 512-245-3184/Fax: 512-245-2850


John K. Ross, Associate Professor of Management, McCoy College of Business Administration,

Texas State University, San Marcos, TX 78666

Tel: 512-245-2465/Fax: 512-245-2850


John R. Darling, McCoy College of Business Administration, Texas State University

Michael J. Keeffe, McCoy College of Business Administration, Texas State University

John K. Ross, McCoy College of Business Administration, Texas State University
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Author:Darling, John R.; Keeffe, Michael J.; Ross, John K.
Publication:Journal of Small Business and Entrepreneurship
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Date:Jan 1, 2007
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