Entrepreneurial Leadership and Context in Chinese Firms: A Tale of Two Chinese Private Enterprises

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Asia Pacific Business Review Vol. 18, No. 4, October 2012, 505–530

Entrepreneurial leadership and context in Chinese firms: a tale of two Chinese private enterprises Catherine L. Wanga*, Ding Ding Teeb and Pervaiz K. Ahmedb
a School of Management, Royal Holloway University of London, Egham Hill, Egham, Surrey, TW20 0EX, UK; bSchool of Business, Monash University, Sunway Campus, Jalan Lagoon Selatan, 46150 Bandar Sunway, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia

We focus on entrepreneurial leadership styles and context in Chinese firms. Drawing on exploratory case study evidence from two Chinese high-tech private enterprises, we find that the interaction of multilevel factors (i.e. philosophical traditions and cultural values, organizational, personal and transitional factors) forms a complex and dynamic context of entrepreneurial leadership in Chinese firms. Benevolent leadership rooted in Confucianism is an overarching leadership style, whilst transactional and transformational leadership styles (which find parallel with Legalism and Daoism) are contingent upon a range of factors, especially the entrepreneurial leader’s personal background and the firm’s strategic focus and developmental stage. Keywords: Chinese culture and philosophies; Chinese private enterprises; entrepreneurial leadership; multilevel leadership context; qualitative case study

Introduction Entrepreneurial leadership is a specific type of leadership that influences others to manage resources strategically in pursuit of entrepreneurial opportunities (Ireland et al. 2003). This leadership style, embodying the characteristics of both entrepreneurs and successful leaders, has received much attention in new ventures and established organizations. Successful new ventures, even at the early new venture creation stage, are often the result of entrepreneurial teams motivated by a leader who is able to instil an entrepreneurial vision and influence others in the pursuit of an opportunity, rather than the effort of individual entrepreneurs (Kamm et al. 1990). Established organizations, responding to environmental change, also face the challenge of strategic renewal where entrepreneurial leaders must instil an entrepreneurial vision and make change happen (Burns 2008). Therefore, effective leadership is imperative to the development and growth of new ventures and entrepreneurial endeavours of established firms (Hitt et al. 2011). Two major research gaps exist in the entrepreneurial leadership literature. First, limited research has been devoted to the conceptual development of entrepreneurial leadership (Jensen and Luthans 2006). Extant literature is limited to identifying common themes and trends between entrepreneurship and leadership (Vecchio 2003), and similar or different characteristics of entrepreneurs and successful leaders (Fernald et al. 2005). The work by Ireland et al. (2003) and Hitt et al. (2011) places entrepreneurial leadership as a core component of strategic entrepreneurship – a multilevel concept that may involve resource acquisition, development and deployment at the individual, organizational and

*Corresponding author. Email: catherine.wang@rhul.ac.uk
ISSN 1360-2381 print/ISSN 1743-792X online q 2012 Taylor & Francis http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13602381.2012.690257 http://www.tandfonline.com

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societal levels. Unfortunately, most entrepreneurship literature focuses on either the individual or the organizational level, and more research is required to understand the influence of the interaction of individual and organizational attributes on entrepreneurial activities (Hitt et al. 2011). Even at the organizational level, more research is needed to address how the internal environment (organizational culture, strategic focus, structure, processes and systems) interacts with an entrepreneurial vision to stimulate entrepreneurial activities (Kyrgidou and Hughes 2010). These weaknesses of strategic entrepreneurship research hinder...
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