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Proactive personality and entrepreneurial leadership: exploring the moderating role of organizational identification and political skill.
Abstract:
The goal of this article is to show the importance of looking at proactive personality, organizational identification, and political skill in the context of entrepreneurship leadership. Individual differences such as personality may be useful in predicting entrepreneurial leadership and it has several implications for practice. Leadership research indicates that the trait approach facilitates the selection of leaders. Viewed from a selection perspective, organizations can determine the desired employee profile to meet their needs.

The concept of entrepreneurial leadership has become increasingly important because organizations must be more entrepreneurial to enhance their performance, their capacity for adaptation and long-term survival. Proactive individuals may be more successful in entrepreneurial leadership and may contribute more to the organization. Proactive personality, which is the tendency to show initiative and take action in one's environment in order to effect meaningful change, may be more specifically tailored to predicting entrepreneurial leadership in firms than the more general Big Five factors and facets. The proactive personality construct fits well conceptually with the current emphasis on entrepreneurial leadership and has been linked empirically to a number of career outcomes.

Subject:
Entrepreneurship (Analysis)
Leadership (Analysis)
Author:
Prieto, Leon C.
Pub Date:
07/01/2010
Publication:
Name: Academy of Entrepreneurship Journal Publisher: The DreamCatchers Group, LLC Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Business, general Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2010 The DreamCatchers Group, LLC ISSN: 1087-9595
Issue:
Date: July, 2010 Source Volume: 16 Source Issue: 2
Geographic:
Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number:
243043160
Full Text:
INTRODUCTION

In this present article, I will explore the possibility that organizational identification and political skill moderates the relationship between proactive personality and entrepreneurial leadership. Research has begun to move from merely examining personality as a main effect (Barrick, Parks, & Mount, 2005) to focus on the moderating or mediating effects that explain how personality influences dependent variables. This approach can also be taken to examine the relationship between proactive personality and entrepreneurial leadership and to investigate whether organizational identification and political skill moderates the relationship. The ability for practitioners to identify individuals that will successfully lead innovation and take risks in the workplace is very beneficial for organizations. Leadership research indicates that the trait approach facilitates the selection of leaders. Viewed from a selection perspective, organizations can determine the desired employee profile to meet their needs (Naquin & Holton, 2002).

ENTREPRENEURIAL LEADERSHIP

The concept of entrepreneurial leadership involves fusing the concepts of "entrepreneurship" (Schumpeter, 1934), "entrepreneurial orientation" (Miller, 1983; Covin & Slevin, 1988), and "entrepreneurial management" (Stevenson, 1985) with leadership (Gupta, McMillan & Surie, 2004). It emphasizes taking a strategic approach to entrepreneurship, so that the entrepreneurial initiatives can support development of enhanced capabilities for continuously creating and appropriating value in the firm (Gupta, McMillan & Surie, 2004). Thus, entrepreneurship can form a basis for competitive advantage and technological growth in all types of firms that are oriented towards leadership and excellence in the new global economy (Gupta, McMillan & Surie, 2004). Entrepreneurial leadership is defined as leadership that creates visionary scenarios that are used to assemble and mobilize a 'supporting cast' of participants who become committed by the vision to the discovery and exploitation of strategic value creation (Gupta, McMillan & Surie, 2004). This definition emphasizes the challenge of mobilizing the resources and gaining the commitment required for value creation that the entrepreneurial leader faces, which involves creating a vision and a cast of supporters capable of enacting that vision (Gupta, McMillan & Surie, 2004). The two challenges of forging a vision and building a cast of competent and committed supporters are interdependent since the former is useless without the latter (Gupta, McMillan & Surie, 2004). Thus, entrepreneurial leaders envision and enact a proactive transformation of the firm's transaction set (Venkataraman & Van de Ven, 1998). Entrepreneurial leadership has much in common with transformational leadership in that the leader evokes super-ordinate performance by appeals to the higher needs of followers (Gupta, McMillan & Surie, 2004). However, the entrepreneurial leader's ability to evoke such performance is founded in the context of the firm's need to adapt to emerging environmental contingencies (Gupta, McMillan & Surie, 2004). Thus, the basic challenge is to create a willingness in followers to abandon current conventional but career-secure activities for creative, entrepreneurial action (Gupta, McMillan & Surie, 2004).

Entrepreneurial leadership can also 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 (Darling, Keeffe, & Ross, 2007). In fulfilling this process, entrepreneurs function within a paradigm of three dimensions: innovativeness, risk-taking and proactiveness (Morris, Schindehutte & Laforge, 2004). Innovativeness focuses on the search for creative and meaningful solutions to individual and operational problems and needs (Darling, Keeffe, & Ross, 2007). Risk-taking involves the willingness to commit resources to opportunities that have a reasonable possibility of failure (Darling, Keeffe, & Ross, 2007). Proactiveness is concerned with implementation, and helping to make events happen through appropriate means, which typically include the efforts of others (Darling, Keeffe, & Ross, 2007). The practice of successful entrepreneurial leadership is thereby fulfilled within an array of exciting activities and new creative developments that are full of innovations and evolving concepts, constantly changing, and in many cases eluding classification (Darling, Keeffe, & Ross, 2007). Entrepreneurial leadership is all about breaking new ground, going beyond the known, and helping to create the future (Darling, Keeffe, & Ross, 2007). What makes a truly successful entrepreneurial leader is not narrowly focused on only intelligence, education, lifestyle or background (Darling, Keeffe, & Ross, 2007). A principal factor that seems to determine success is the entrepreneur's ability to deal with opportunities through the dynamics of organizational setting, thereby enabling and motivating the people concerned to be actively and enthusiastically involved and successful (Darling, Keeffe, & Ross, 2007). The basic challenge of entrepreneurial leaders (McGrath and MacMillan, 2000) is to envision future possibilities and enable the organization to transform its current transaction set (Venkataraman & Van de Ven, 1998). Moreover, such adaptation must be accomplished without overstraining the unit's resource endowments (Gupta, McMillan & Surie, 2004). In addition, this must often be done in the face of conservative and risk-averse attitudes stemming from followers' lack of confidence in the gains from innovation in uncertain environments (Gupta, McMillan & Surie, 2004).

PROACTIVE PERSONALITY

Despite the widespread acceptance of the five factor model, theorists have argued that when attempting to link personality to a specific criterion of interest, the criterion-related validity of basic personality traits is likely to be exceeded by compound or emergent personality variables that are more specifically tailored to the outcome (Hough & Schneider, 1996). According to Hough and Schneider, "Compound personality traits are comprised of basic personality traits that do not all covary" (p. 57). Proactive personality is thought to be one example of such a compound variable (Hough, 2003), and it has proven to be predictive of a number of career development outcomes. Bateman and Crant (1993) developed the proactive personality concept, defining it as a relatively stable tendency to effect environmental change that differentiates people based on the extent to which they take action to influence their environments. Individuals with a prototypical proactive personality identify opportunities and act on them, show initiative, take action, and persevere until meaningful change occurs (Crant, 2000, p. 439). In contrast, people who are not proactive exhibit the opposite patterns: they fail to identify, let alone seize, opportunities to change things. Less proactive individuals are passive and reactive, preferring to adapt to circumstances rather than change them (Crant, 2000, p. 439). As work becomes more dynamic and decentralized, proactive behavior and initiative become even more critical determinants of organizational success. For example, as new forms of management are introduced that minimize the surveillance function, companies will increasingly rely on employees' personal initiative to identify and solve problems (Frese, Fay, Hilburger, Leng, & Tag, 1997).

Crant (2000) defined proactive behavior as taking initiative in improving current circumstances or creating new ones; it involves challenging the status quo rather than passively adapting to present conditions. Employees can engage in proactive activities as part of their in-role behavior in which they fulfill basic job requirements (Crant, 2000). For example, sales agents might proactively seek feedback on their techniques for closing a sale with an ultimate goal of improving job performance. Extra-role behaviors can also be proactive, such as efforts to redefine one's role in the organization. For example, employees might engage in career management activities by identifying and acting on opportunities to change the scope of their jobs or move to more desirable divisions of the business (Crant, 2000). Crant (1995) demonstrated that proactive personality accounted for incremental variance in the job performance of real estate agents after controlling for both extraversion and conscientiousness. Proactive personality seems more specifically tailored to predicting motivation in learning contexts than the more general Big Five factors and facets (Major, Turner, & Fletcher, 2006).

Several researchers have examined an array of potential outcomes of proactive personality at work. For example, Crant (1995) examined the criterion validity of the proactive personality scale developed by Bateman and Crant (1993). Using a sample of 131 real estate agents, results indicated that the proactive personality scale explained an additional 8% of the variance in an objective measure of agents' job performance beyond experience, social desirability, general mental ability, and two of the big five personality factors- conscientiousness and extraversion. Parker (1998) found that, using a sample from a glass manufacturing firm, proactive personality was positively and significantly associated with participation in organizational improvement initiatives. Becherer and Maurer (1999) examined the effects of a proactive disposition on entrepreneurial behaviors. Results from a sample of 215 small company presidents suggested that the presidents' level of proactivity was significantly associated with three types of entrepreneurial behaviors: starting versus not starting the business, the number of startups, and the types of ownership.

Proactive personality appears to have the potential for providing further insight into the personality trait-entrepreneurship relationship (Crant, 1996). The proactive personality scale measures a personal disposition toward proactive behavior, an idea that intuitively appears to be related to entrepreneurship (Crant, 1996). In a study conducted by Crant (1996) that examined the relationship between proactive personality and entrepreneurial intentions, proactive personality was positively associated with entrepreneurial intentions. This may also be the case for entrepreneurial leadership; because people with a proactive personality may be more inclined to mobilizing the resources and gaining the commitment required for value creation that the entrepreneurial leader faces. More proactive people may have a greater desire to become entrepreneurial leaders in order to help create value for their firm.

Proposition 1: There will be a positive relationship between proactive personality and entrepreneurial leadership.

ORGANIZATIONAL IDENTIFICATION

As threats to employee loyalty resulting from organizational mergers, take-overs, and restructuring have become part of everyday organizational life, the ability to elicit a certain level of identification with an organization has become increasingly important to the well-being of both organizations and their members (Dutton, Dukerich, & Harquail, 1994). Social identity theory provides the theoretical basis for the concept of organizational identification (Elsbach, 1999). Social identification thus refers to the 'perception of belongingness to a group classification' through which 'an individual perceives him or herself as an actual or symbolic member of the group' (e.g. 'I am a man', 'I am a biologist') (Mael & Ashforth, 1992, p. 104). Self-conceptions may also include an awareness of the features that distinguish oneself from other individuals (e.g. 'I am cheerful', 'I am generous', etc) (Abrams, 1992, p. 59). Further, depending on social identity salience, identification is closely associated with high commitment and involvement within, and efforts invested into, a social group (Ellemers, De Gilder, & Haslam, 2004; Ellemers, Kortekaas & Ouwerkerk 1999). Organizations can be conceived as social systems through which individuals define their self-conceptions. Organizational identification is seen as a form of the construct of social identification (Ashforth & Mael, 1989; Bergami & Bagozzi, 2000; Elsbach, 1999). That is, organizational identification is a particular facet, while social identification is a multifaceted construct. According to Dutton et al. (1994), organizational identification refers to the cognitive connection between the definition of an organization and the definition a person applies to him or herself.

A sense of organizational identification may prevent employees from becoming alienated and may be an important precondition for general feelings of job satisfaction. Moreover, members that identify with an organization may be more likely to remain with the organization and to expend effort on behalf of the organization (Dutton et al., 1994). The notion of organizational identification (OI) has become a central concept in the area of organizational behavior and is attracting increasing attention in management research more generally. The reason for this is that OI is seen as a key psychological state reflecting the underlying link or bond that exists between the employee and the organization and, therefore, potentially capable of explaining and predicting many important attitudes and behaviors' in the workplace (Edwards, 2005). Cheney (1983) argued OI can be seen as a mechanism of persuasion. Through identification, employees can be influenced by getting them to buy in to the organization's activities. The organization's goals become the individual's goals, and those who identify strongly are more likely to be motivated to work hard to help achieve these goals.

Individuals who hold strong organizational identification are concerned with the well-being of their organization. As noted by Dutton et al. (1994, p. 254), when people strongly identify with their work organization, their sense of survival is tied to the organization's survival. This link leads individuals to direct efforts on behalf of their colleagues and the organization as a whole (Dutton et al., 1994) as part of the process of creating distinctiveness from other groups and favorable bias towards members in the group with which the individuals are associated (Kramer, 1991). Hence, it is likely that employees who strongly identify with their organization will perform their tasks better than employees who identify less with their organization (Carmeli, Gilat, & Waldham, 2007). Social identity theory suggests that organizational identification is likely to result in enhanced in-role performance because people who strongly identify with their organization are likely to exert much effort, contribute their best for the social system, cooperate, develop lower turnover intentions and actual turnover, and are expected to exhibit high performance as they feel a strong sense of belongingness (e.g., Abrams et al., 1998; Mael & Ashforth, 1995; Tyler, 1999). Carmeli et al. (2007) tested the relationship between organizational identification and job performance and were able to provide support for the role of organizational identification in the enhancement of job performance. Their findings confirm the notion that employees who identify with a particular organization tend to exert their best efforts for it, and thus exhibit a relatively higher level and quality of performance (Carmeli et al., 2007).

Entrepreneurial leaders also build commitment by encouraging others to experiment and learn for themselves (Gupta, McMillan & Surie, 2004). The intent is not only to get followers to be super-normally motivated to work hard but also to help them develop a different perspective (Gupta, McMillan & Surie, 2004). Further, the mechanism is not charisma, values, or team pressure, but a collective spirit of conscious innovation (Gupta, McMillan & Surie, 2004). This has a lot of implications for the relationship between organizational identification and entrepreneurial leadership because it makes sense conceptually that if someone strongly identifies with the firm that they work with will engage in higher levels of entrepreneurial leadership than those who do not identify themselves with the organization.

Proposition 2: Organizational identification will moderate the relationship between proactive personality and entrepreneurial leadership such that the higher the organizational identification score, the more individuals will display entrepreneurial leadership.

POLITICAL SKILL

Individuals that possess political skill have the ability to read others and suitably adjust their behavior in accordance with the situation to achieve favorable outcomes (Ferris, Perrewe, Anthony, & Gilmore, 2000). It is defined as an interpersonal style construct that combines social astuteness with the ability to relate well, and otherwise demonstrate situationally appropriate behavior in a disarmingly charming and engaging manner that inspires confidence, trust, sincerity, and genuineness (Ferris, Perrewe, Anthony, & Gilmore, 2000). According to Ferris, Treadway, Perrewe, Brouer, Douglas, and Lux (2007), it is the ability to effectively understand others at work, and to use such knowledge to influence others to act in ways that enhance one's personal and/or organizational objectives. The authors characterize it as a "comprehensive pattern of social competencies, with cognitive, affective, and behavioral manifestations" (Ferris et al., 2007). Therefore, political skill is a multi-dimensional construct that involves perspicacity, the art of persuasion, the knack of forming the right connections, and the seeming embodiment of authenticity. Ferris et al. (2007) explain the dimensions, namely social astuteness, interpersonal influence, networking ability, and apparent sincerity. Todd, Harris, Harris and Wheeler (2009) viewed political skill as a skill that employees used to achieve desired outcomes in the form of career benefits. They tested the effect of political skill on the five career-related outcomes of total compensation, total promotions, perceived career success, life satisfaction, and perceived external mobility and their findings indicated that the overall political skill construct was significantly related to all of the career outcomes except total compensation (Todd, Harris, Harris, & Wheeler, 2009). Social influence theory is a theoretical framework for understanding the effects of political skill (Todd, Harris, Harris, & Wheeler, 2009). Using social influence theory, researchers try to understand how individuals use their social influence to achieve desired outcomes (Todd, Harris, Harris, & Wheeler, 2009). In the work context, individuals often want to influence others to attain desired roles, assignments, and rewards (Judge & Bretz, 1994).

Politically skilled persons possess social competencies that enhance their personal and/or organizational goals through their understanding and influence of others in social interactions at work (Blickle, Wendel, & Ferris, 2010). Hogan's (1991; Hogan & Shelton, 1998) socio-analytic theory suggests that personality needs social skill to demonstrate its influence, and he argued that specific personality traits are the embodiment of the motives to get along (Blickle, Wendel, & Ferris, 2010). By implication, strong personality prediction of entrepreneurial leadership should not be expected without the presence of social effectiveness competencies. Political skill is a social effectiveness competency that already has demonstrated its effectives as a predictor of important work outcomes (Ferris, Davidson, & Perrewe, 2005; Ferris et al., 2008; Semadar, Robbins, & Ferris, 2006), and moderators of stress-strain (e.g., Perrewe et al., 2004) and influence tactics-performance (e.g., Treadway, Ferris, Duke, Adams, & Thatcher, 2007) relationships. In addition, it might be that political skill may also play a facilitating role with proactive personality in the prediction of entrepreneurial leadership.

Entrepreneurial leaders elicit high levels of participation and involvement by the group and they orchestrate constantly changing role definitions driven by an uncertain organizational context (Gupta, McMillan & Surie, 2004). Entrepreneurial leadership requires an ability to be effective at bargaining and team building and emphasizes path clearing for opportunity exploitation and value creation (Gupta, McMillan & Surie, 2004). In their "path-clearing" role, entrepreneurial leaders negotiate the internal and external environments (Cyert & March, 1966; Thompson, 1983). They are able to anticipate and dissolve potential resistance, obtain support from key stakeholders within the firm as well as from external constituencies, and eliminate obstacles to the accomplishment of desired goals. Critical resources and information are thereby made available (Daily & Dalton, 1993; Lewis, 1980). To be successful at all of this requires a leader with political skill.

Proposition 3: Political skill will moderate the relationship between proactive personality and entrepreneurial leadership such that the higher the political skill score, the more individuals will display entrepreneurial leadership.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

FUTURE DIRECTIONS

Researchers need to conceptualize entrepreneurial leadership frameworks that can be utilized to develop individuals who can make positive impacts in their organizations. This will link entrepreneurial leadership with human resource development and it will aid in developing individuals who have a desire to create value in their firms.

There is also general agreement that social networks play a major role in the entrepreneurial process by providing the fundamental resources necessary for starting a business (Boyd, 1989). This has implications for entrepreneurial leadership and there is also a need to determine if a social network plays a role in individuals becoming entrepreneurial leaders and whether it facilitates the entrepreneurial leadership process via strong or weak ties.

Future research should also consider other possible moderating mechanisms involved in the proactive personality and entrepreneurial leadership relationship. It is possible that organizational climate, achievement goals, locus of control, and entrepreneurial self-efficacy moderate the relationship between proactive personality and entrepreneurial leadership. Researchers should also try to determine if gender role orientation plays a role because the career psychology literature provides a substantial amount of evidence that gender is a significant variable in understanding differences in career self-efficacy (Lent & Hackett, 1987; Nevill & Schleckler, 1988). Overall, empirical evidence suggests that women are likely to have lower expectations than men for success in a wide range of occupations (Eccles, 1994); however, I suspect that this may not be the case for women's desire to become entrepreneurial leaders.

IMPLICATIONS

The ability for practitioners to identify individuals that will successfully lead innovation in the workplace is very beneficial for organizations. As previously stated individuals with a prototypical proactive personality identify opportunities and act on them, show initiative, take action, and persevere until meaningful change occurs (Crant, 2000, p. 439) and this has tremendous implications because these individuals may be more successful in becoming leaders in the workplace because of their desire to take action and to create a positive change in their work environment. Practitioners may want to identify employees that identify with an organization because they may be more likely to remain with the organization and to expend effort on behalf of the organization (Dutton, Dukerich, & Harquail, 1994); this has implications because employees who strongly identify with an organization may strive to create value for the firm. It may also be beneficial to identify those proactive individuals who are politically skilled because of their ability to read others and suitably adjust their behavior in accordance with the situation to achieve favorable outcomes such as creating a vision and a cast of supporters capable of enacting that vision (Gupta, McMillan & Surie, 2004). Also if the findings do indeed show that the moderating variables (organizational identification and political skill) moderate the relationship, steps should be taken to continue and implement HR practices that will create a climate that fosters organizational identification; also steps should be taken to offer training in political skill.

CONCLUSION

Dispositional characteristics have not been emphasized in previous studies, which have tended to rely more heavily on situational variables (Naquin & Holton, 2002). The goal of this article is to show the importance of looking at proactive personality, organizational identification, and political skill in the context of entrepreneurship leadership. Individual differences such as personality may be useful in predicting entrepreneurial leadership and it has several implications for practice. Leadership research indicates that the trait approach facilitates the selection of leaders. Viewed from a selection perspective, organizations can determine the desired employee profile to meet their needs (Naquin & Holton, 2002). The concept of entrepreneurial leadership has become increasingly important because organizations must be more entrepreneurial to enhance their performance, their capacity for adaptation and long-term survival (Gupta et al., 2004). Proactive individuals may be more successful in entrepreneurial leadership and may contribute more to the organization. Proactive personality, which is the tendency to show initiative and take action in one's environment in order to effect meaningful change, may be more specifically tailored to predicting entrepreneurial leadership in firms than the more general Big Five factors and facets. The proactive personality construct fits well conceptually with the current emphasis on entrepreneurial leadership and has been linked empirically to a number of career outcomes (Seibert et al., 1999).

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Leon C. Prieto, Savannah State University
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