University of Edinburgh Business School

Processes of entrepreneurial leadership

Entrepreneurial leadership is at the nexus of entrepreneurship and leadership but it remains atheoretical, and lacks definitional clarity and appropriate tools to assess its characteristics, behaviours and impacts on practice. For some, there is nothing distinctive about the entrepreneurial firm context and it is appropriate to simply extend existing leadership research into entrepreneurship.

By contrast, leadership can be considered a constituent of entrepreneurship in that in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world, an entrepreneurial mindset and behaviours are essential for effective leadership.

Professor Richard Harrison is currently engaged in three research programmes on leadership and entrepreneurial processes. Papers from these projects have been published in British Journal of Management, Academy of Management Learning and Education, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Regional Studies, R&D Management, Entrepreneurship and Regional Development, Organizational Research Methods. A special issue of Leadership is in preparation on the theme of leadership and authority in a crises-constructing world, and a special issue of Entrepreneurship and Regional Development is in preparation on identity and identity work.

Entrepreneurial Leadership

This research programme explores the role of leadership in the entrepreneurial process – in social and corporate as well as new venture and family business contexts — as it is reflected in business development (particularly in the financing of innovation and growth), and in the implications of research and theorizing for practice and public policy. This includes the analysis of entrepreneurial learning and leadership processes (including the investigation of identity and belonging in entrepreneurial and other organisational settings), studies of the role of entrepreneurship and innovation in emerging economies (notably China and sub-Saharan Africa), examination of the nature of leadership and peace entrepreneurship in post-conflict societies (Northern Ireland, Rwanda, Kosovo*) , and investigations of the generation, protection and exploitation of intellectual capital, including studies of academic entrepreneurship and technology transfer. A research handbook on entrepreneurial leadership has been commissioned for publication in 2015 by Edward Elgar.

(* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the IJC Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.)

Gender, Leadership and Identity Work

The project investigates the ways in which women construct their leadership identity through participation on a women-only, leadership development programme. Identity work, the development, revision and maintenance of identity can be shaped through training and development. Contemporary pedagogical theories lack coherent, theoretically-based approaches to designing and delivering leadership programmes for women. The research objectives are to explore the role of gender in the design and delivery of leadership development programmes, to investigate the gender dynamics involved in shaping, forming and maintaining a leader identity, to examine the tactics and processes employed in the practice of leadership and to identify the impact/ effectiveness of leadership development.

Leadership and Crisis

The world is experiencing cyclical and cascading socially constructed crises (of capitalism, of ecology, of democratic institutions). It is also producing insistent and transforming construals of crises (from a credit crisis in the banking sector, to a fiscal crisis of nation-states, to a political crisis of the Eurozone, to the fall-out from the ‘Arab Spring’ and to the on-going crisis in North-South relations). These constructed and construed formations of crises present an opportunity to change our way of knowing the world and allow us to pose radical questions to our concepts of leadership and authority, and to practices that seek to influence these crises. However, the very notion of leadership suggests the possibility of containment and control that the increasingly ‘liquid’ or systemic contemporary world calls into question. The notion of leadership is traditionally associated with ideas of individual agency and control, which crises undermine or disrupt — so what forms of leadership come into being in such situations? These issues are being explored in a Special Issue of Leadership in 2015.