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Entrepreneurial Success Factors

I’ve written about the psychological makeup of the entrepreneur and it remains an open question as to whether or not a person can be trained to act as an entrepreneur when he or she lacks some of the personality traits that have been identified in the research literature—a need to achieve and/or be their boss; a propensity for risk taking; an ability to learn from failure; and a predisposition toward innovative behavior.  However, apart from the factors that may lead a person to launch into entrepreneurial activities, the more important question is identifying the traits, skills, and actions that are most likely to lead to ultimate success for an entrepreneur.  While there is surprising evidence that formal management development and training for entrepreneurs has relatively little impact on the performance of a company, it is agreed that successful entrepreneurs generally have a keen ability to learn from their experiences.  One of the most important sources of education and development for entrepreneurs is the interaction that they have with other stakeholders in the business, including customers, suppliers, investors and bankers.  In fact, this is part of the basis for the popular notion of the “learning organization” that has been touted as the road to success for larger firms.  Other studies support the importance of dynamic learning with findings that entrepreneurs who become, or remain, task-oriented are more likely to fail.

Of course, while personality factors are certainly important in determining the probability of success for an entrepreneurial venture, there are other matters that should be considered.  For example, evidence indicating that location is positively associated with the success of smaller firms in the United States and other countries suggests that infrastructure and the proximity of the company to skilled labor and inter-firm networks may be just important as the personality traits of the entrepreneur in determining winners and losers.  Also, the specific background of the entrepreneur is important.  While researchers acknowledge that it is possible for someone with substantial capital and no technical experience to launch a new technology-based firm, most of the founders of such firms are technical entrepreneurs.  This generally means that there is a greater risk the entrepreneur will have insufficient capital to fund development and launch of the product and that attention to overall business and marketing strategy will be inadequate.  It is important for entrepreneurs to recognize their potential shortcomings in advance and plan for bringing in additional team members who can compliment their strengths.  Perhaps the best way to do this is to identify mentors who can be trusted to provide the entrepreneur with candid advice about his or her skills and weaknesses and coaching as to how best to reach out to other who can help build the business.


Ways in Which Culture Can Influence Leadership Styles and Behaviors

The relationship between culture and leadership styles and behaviors has been extensively studied and debated and the evidence appears to confirm that culture does have a small, but significant, impact on the use and effectiveness of leadership styles although a number of other factors (e.g., personality characteristics of the leader and followers, needs and expectations of the parties, age, gender, skills and expertise, type of organization and structure and type of work unit) also influence the relationship between leaders and their followers.  When considering how culture relates to the way in which they interact with their subordinates, managers should consider the following comprehensive list and explanation of ways in which culture can influence leadership styles and behaviors developed by Zagoršek:

  • Culture plays an important role in shaping the approved leadership prototype—the image of the ideal leader—of a particular society.
  • Culture has a significant—many say fundamental–influence on the personality traits and work values of leaders and their subordinates in a particular society.
  • The cultural values and norms of a society determine the attitudes of leaders and their actual pattern of leadership behaviors including the ways in which leaders and their subordinates relate to one another.
  • Just as cultural values and norms impact the attitudes and behaviors of leaders, they also influence how subordinates perceive and ultimately accept or reject the behaviors and practices of their leaders.
  • Consistent with the points discussed above, culture is an important determinant of the effectiveness of particular leadership styles and behaviors and leader behaviors that are inconsistent with societal norms and values and/or with the implicit leadership theories of subordinates in the society are likely to be ineffective and ultimately lower the morale of the subordinates and harm the productivity and performance of the organizational unit that the ineffective leader oversees.
  • Culture is important in providing leaders with guidance regarding the outcomes and results that they should try to achieve through their decisions, actions and behaviors.
  • Culture impacts how leaders are selected and accepted as “legitimate” within societies (e.g., in egalitarian, individualistic, low power distance societies the leader usually has to “earn his title” while in collectivistic and high power distance countries the leadership role is usually ascribed to an individual by the nature of his or her status (acquired by birth, kinship, gender, age, education, or connections).
  • Differences among societies have been identified with respect to the bases of power and influence tactics that leaders rely upon in order to be effective.
  • The nature of the relationship between leaders and their subordinates is also impacted by cultural factors.  In some societies, for example, the relationship is akin to a parent and child and the subordinate is dependent on the leader and the leader is expected to attend to and satisfy the needs of his or her subordinate.  In more egalitarian societies, however, there are far fewer distinctions between leaders and subordinates and the leader is often simply “first among equals”.
  • Culture provides context for the styles and behaviors of leaders and thus provides a way to identify whether a particular action will be consider appropriate or inappropriate within a society.  For example, in South East Asia attendance by a leader at a subordinate’s family celebration will be considered “supportive” as will a leader’s discussion of the personal problems of one subordinate with other subordinates in Japan; however, such behaviors by a leader in US would likely be considered annoying or offensive by the subordinate whose personal space has been intruded upon by the leader. 

Adding Value for Clients with Governance Counseling

I've recently launched a new series on West's Business Currents platform with an introductory post on adding value for client with governance counseling.