Entrepreneurial leadership: towards a model for learning and development

Entrepreneurial leadership as a new paradigm of inquiry has recently been the focus
of research and practice in both entrepreneurship and leadership disciplines. This is
due to the critical role that leadership competencies of entrepreneurs play in
enhancing individual, group, and new venture performance and success and the
significant influences of leaders’ entrepreneurial capabilities in dealing with highly
turbulent and competitive environment of current organizations (Cogliser and
Brigham 2004; D’Intino et al. 2007; Fernald et al. 2005; Frey, 2010; Gupta et al.
2004; Kuratko and Hornsby 1999; Swiercz and Lydon 2002; Yang 2008).
Accordingly, an increasing body of research concentrated on exploring the
leadership functions of entrepreneurs as well as entrepreneurial functions of
organizational leaders based on the common threads and linkages between
entrepreneurship and leadership (Cogliser and Brigham 2004; Vecchio 2003).
However, there is little knowledge about the theoretical and conceptual foundations
of entrepreneurial leadership. More importantly, our knowledge about how to

develop entrepreneurial leadership competencies specifically in university students as
prospective entrepreneurial leaders either in their own ventures or in established
organizations is limited. This conceptual paper attempts to narrow the gap in
literature through presenting the theoretical and conceptual basis of entrepreneurial
leadership and an integrated approach to entrepreneurial leadership competencies
development (Lans and Mulder 2009). It also explains entrepreneurial competencies
development in the context of university entrepreneurship programs and then
proposes a model for entrepreneurial leadership development based on a dynamic
perspective of entrepreneurial learning. The proposed model presents entrepreneurial
leadership development as a process of experiential, social interactive, observational
and reflective learning which provides an appropriate foundation for entrepreneurial
leadership education, research and practice.
Entrepreneurship and leadership
A review of entrepreneurship and leadership literature reveals the same process of
theory evolution in both schools of thought. This process of historical evolution begins
with a focus on the innate and exceptional characteristics of successful leaders and
entrepreneurs in ‘traits’ theories and the effects of followers and contextual factors on
stepping into entrepreneurship and leadership activities in later theories. In between the
two ends, there are numerous theories which attempt to give a clearer picture of what
leaders and entrepreneurs do to influence a group of people to enact their vision (Gupta
et al. 2004; Murphy and Ensher 2008; Yukl 1998). Inconsistency in research findings
recently compelled scholars of both fields to shift from traits and situational factors to a
dynamic learning process through which entrepreneurs and leaders engage in an
evolutionary process (Kempster and Cope 2010) and consciously develop their personal
and functional capabilities in order to face the challenges of the current business world
(Cope and Watts 2000; Cope 2005; 2003; Kempster 2006; Rae and Carswell 2000; Rae
2000; 2006; Swiercz and Lydon 2002; Young and Sexton 2003).
At the individual level, leaders and entrepreneurs also have many common
qualities such as innovativeness, propensity to take risks and ability to envision a
better future for the business and organization (Fernald et al. 2005). Similarities
between the two disciplines are so much that some scholars defined entrepreneurship
as a type of leadership and identified most of the entrepreneurs’ behaviours as
leadership behaviours, though in a particular economic and complex context
(Cogliser and Brigham 2004; Fernald et al. 2005; Vecchio 2003). Concentrating on
the differences between entrepreneurship and leadership, other researchers called this
definition of entrepreneurship as simplistic and ‘parsimonious’ (Vecchio 2003). Since
an entrepreneur is more than just a leader who performs in an established
organization, (s)he starts a firm from the first scratch, faces different challenges and
crises (Gupta et al. 2004) and leads in an extraordinary complex situation (Cogliser
and Brigham 2004). Moreover, entrepreneurs are more complex in personality
attributes and skills because they need to play different roles simultaneously
(Mattare 2008). Therefore, entrepreneurial leaders need to develop more specific
competencies to be able to successfully create a new venture and lead it to success
and development (Gupta et al. 2004; Swiercz and Lydon 2002).
Despite all the debates on similarities and differences between entrepreneurship
and leadership, it is crucial to explore how the two disciplines can help the
development of theory and practice in each field, particularly, how the process of

theory development in leadership as the more established discipline can inform
theory development in entrepreneurship as a more emergent field (Cogliser and
Brigham 2004; Vecchio 2003). In terms of practice development, entrepreneurs can
take advantage of leadership competencies to cope with the various challenges of
new venture creation and thereby increase the probability of their success in the
business world. Leaders also can benefit from entrepreneurial competencies to deal
with the highly turbulent and competitive environment of current organizations
(Cogliser and Brigham 2004). All the theoretical and conceptual overlaps between
entrepreneurship and leadership led scholars to merge them into a new paradigm of
‘entrepreneurial leadership’. The synergy associated with ‘entrepreneurial leadership’
not only assists improving research and practice in both disciplines but it also
presents novel properties that are not obviously apparent in either of the separate
components (Gupta et al. 2004; Yang 2008).
Entrepreneurial leadership definition and development
In fact, ‘entrepreneurial leadership’ is in the very early stages of conceptual and
theoretical development. Entrepreneurial leadership has been defined as a form of
leadership behaviour distinctive from other types of leadership behaviours that are
required for highly turbulent, challenging and competitive environments (Gupta
et al. 2004). Only recently, specific competencies of entrepreneurial leaders that
enable them to recognize opportunities, step-into a new venture creation and cope
with the challenges and problems associated with entrepreneurial venturing have
been identified (Gupta et al. 2004; Swiercz and Lydon 2002). Scholars had two main
approaches to entrepreneurial leadership competencies defined as the specific
abilities to perform leadership roles and tasks in entrepreneurial endeavours (Lans
and Mulder 2009). First, ‘work-oriented approach’ that considers entrepreneurial
leadership competencies as the requisite attributes of entrepreneurial leaders to
successfully play the challenging roles and tasks of the leader in different stages of
their business growth and development (Swiercz and Lydon 2002). A review of the
few definitions proposed for entrepreneurial leadership indicates that most of the
scholars identified three specific personal competencies for entrepreneurial leaders
including proactiveness, innovativeness and risk taking (Chen 2007; Gupta et al.
2004; Kuratko 2007; Surie and Ashely 2008). Second, ‘socio-cultural and situated
approach’ that explains entrepreneurial leadership development as a social process of
continuous and gradual learning and ‘becoming’ that is located in particular contexts
and communities (Kempster and Cope 2010). It is argued that entrepreneurial
competencies and in particular entrepreneurial leadership can be learned and
developed (Baron and Ensly 2006; Kempster and Cope 2010; Lans et al. 2008). In the
following paragraphs each of the personal competencies of entrepreneurial leaders is
explained. Then, we highlight the specific functional competencies that enable
entrepreneurial leaders to successfully play the critical roles and tasks of the leader in
entrepreneurial venturing.
Proactiveness is being active to create and lead the future rather than waiting to be
influenced by it. It is the typical personality characteristic of entrepreneurial leaders
that enables them to manage their own business (Fuller and Marler 2009) and

envision a successful future for it (Hannah et al. 2008). It empowers entrepreneurial
leaders to anticipate future problems, recognize opportunities and identify the needs
for change and improvement (Kuratko et al. 2007; Okudan and Rzasa 2006). In
addition to the impacts of being proactive on entrepreneurs’ new business success
and growth, it affects their creativity, perseverance to achieve the vision, and desire
and intention to initiate entrepreneurial activities (Kickul and Gundry 2002;
Zampetakis 2008). From a learning perspective, the proactive characteristic
motivates entrepreneurs to recognize their learning needs and engage in learning
activities and training programs to cope with the crises and challenges of their
business management (Cope and Watts 2000; Major et al. 2006; Young and Sexton
2003). As a matter of fact, entrepreneurial leadership is a proactive response to
environmental opportunities (Surie and Ashley 2008).
Innovativeness has been defined as the tendency and ability of entrepreneurial
leaders to think creatively and develop novel and useful ideas in entrepreneurial
opportunity recognition, resource utilization and problem solving (Chen 2007;
Gupta et al. 2004; Mattare 2008; Okudan and Rzasa 2006). Innovativeness is the
attribute that differentiates entrepreneurs from those who want just to be selfemployed
(Kuratko 2005; Mueller and Thomas 2000; Okudan and Rzasa 2006).
From Surie and Ashley’s (2008) point of view entrepreneurial leaders are creative
innovators who are committed to action and value creation.
Risk taking
Risk taking is the willingness of entrepreneurial leaders to absorb uncertainty and
take the burden of responsibility for the future (Chen 2007). Prudential and
calculated risk taking is one of the common characteristics of entrepreneurial
leaders, particularly, in the early stages of the entrepreneurship process (Robinson
et al. 2006; Zhao et al. 2005). Furthermore, entrepreneurial leaders are characterized
as having a greater propensity to take risks than managers and they need to take
various risks in different stages of their venture creation and development (Mueller
and Thomas 2000).
In addition to personal characteristics, entrepreneurial leaders need to possess
specific competencies to successfully perform the challenging tasks and roles of the
leaders in entrepreneurial venturing. Concentrating on leadership competencies that
entrepreneurial CEOs need to develop in different stages of their business
establishment, growth and development, Swiercz and Lydon (2002) classified
competencies of entrepreneurial leaders into self-competencies (endowed abilities
within individuals) and functional-competencies (capabilities needed for performing
various leadership tasks). The authors highlighted intellectual integrity, promoting
the company rather than the individual leader, utilizing external advisors and
creating a sustainable organization as self-competencies of entrepreneurial leaders
and marketing, finance and human resources as the most important functionalcompetencies
of entrepreneurial leaders. However, entrepreneurship scholars called
for more investigations to identify the specific competencies of entrepreneurial
leaders that enable them to lead distinctively different from other types of leaders
(Gupta et al. 2004). Moreover, entrepreneurial leadership learning is a situated and

relational learning process about which there is no commonly accepted theory
(Kempster and Cope 2010).
Through a personal development perspective and based on the challenges that
entrepreneurial leaders face in organizational settings and the competencies they
require to cope with the challenges, Gupta et al. (2004) developed a theoretical
foundation for entrepreneurial leadership. According to the theory, entrepreneurial
leaders face two interrelated challenges in the process of organizational development.
The first challenge, ‘Scenario enactment’, is envisioning future and creating a
scenario of innovative possibilities. ‘Cast enactment’, the second challenge, is defined
as influencing and inspiring a group of competent and committed supporters capable
of accomplishing the objectives of the scenario. Facing these challenges,
entrepreneurial leaders play two critical roles including building commitment in
the followers, and specifying limitations and should be proactive, innovative and
take risks. Fundamentally, competencies needed for overcoming scenario and cast
enactment challenges are interdependent since one cannot be conceived without the
other. Moreover, they both evolve through a cumulative and complementary
process, meaning that development in one reinforces the other. Importantly,
entrepreneurial leadership competencies develop through being involved in
entrepreneurial activities and facing the challenges and crises of task performances.
Accordingly, entrepreneurial leaders need to develop a combination of personal
and functional competencies to be able to successfully develop an entrepreneurial
vision and perform the challenging tasks and roles of an entrepreneurial leader
(Kuratko 2007; Okudan and Rzasa 2006; Vecchio 2003). By doing so, they need to
be engaged in a dynamic process of learning, change and development (Gupta et al.
2004; Swiercz and Lydon 2002). Although there has been a tradition of looking at
entrepreneurship as a learning process, a learning perspective to entrepreneurial
leadership development has recently been conducted (Kempster and Cope 2010).
Drawing upon entrepreneurial learning literature, this paper attempts to highlight
the different learning mechanisms through which entrepreneurial leadership
competencies can be developed. The following section discusses the importance
and nature of entrepreneurial learning. Then, different aspects of entrepreneurial
learning that construct the foundations for developing an integrated model for
entrepreneurial leadership development is proposed.
Entrepreneurial learning: importance, definition, and process
Entrepreneurial learning has recently become one of the main focuses of
entrepreneurship research. This increased interest is because of the strong belief
that entrepreneurial competencies and particularly entrepreneurial leadership can be
learned and developed through experience and entrepreneurship education and
training programs (Kempster and Cope 2010; Lans and Mulder 2009; Lans et al.
2008). Moreover, learning plays pivotal roles in the whole process of new venture
creation, from developing the competencies to stepping-into a new venture creation
(Erikson 2003) to recognizing opportunities and coping with the challenges and
dynamics of the business world (Cope and Watts 2000; Fayolle and Gailly 2008;
Harrison and Leitch 2005; Politis 2005). More importantly, entrepreneurs’
effectiveness in leading a business (managing people and resources) highly depends
on their ability to continuously acquire entrepreneurial knowledge from numerous
resources and different contexts and apply the knowledge to modify their behaviours

as well as change their business strategies (Cope 2003; Murali et al. 2009; Young and
Sexton 2003). Indeed, learning has been considered as the competitive advantage
and one of the vital tasks of entrepreneurs (Harrison and Leitch 2005; Kempster and
Cope 2010). Young and Sexton (2003) conclude that ‘the most enduring
entrepreneurs are those who ‘‘learn how to learn’’ the processes associated with
acquiring knowledge’ (15).
Despite the dramatic importance of entrepreneurial learning, our knowledge
about the various aspects of this critical process particularly the conceptual
definition and mechanisms through which individuals learn different entrepreneurial
competencies is limited (Cope and Watts 2000; Cope 2003; Corbett 2005; Harrison
and Leitch 2005; Pittaway and Cope 2007; Politis 2005). More importantly, there is
not enough information about the ways of leadership learning in entrepreneurial
contexts (Kempster and Cope 2010). Scholars have defined entrepreneurial learning
through two main perspectives. First, ‘learning that occurs during the new venture
creation process’ (Pittaway and Cope 2007, 212). Second, learning competencies
required for stepping-into new venture creation, dealing with the challenges and
crises involved in entrepreneurial venturing, and successfully leading the new venture
(Lans et al. 2008).
Given that entrepreneurial learning is basically an experiential process, the
majority of entrepreneurial learning definitions are based on different aspects of
experiential learning model (Kolb 1984) including experimentation, conceptualization,
reflection and experience (Pittaway and Cope 2007). Based on the model, Politis
(2005) emphasized that entrepreneurial learning is an experiential process in which
knowledge develops through experiencing, reflecting, thinking and acting. Rae and
Carswell (2000) looked at entrepreneurial learning as the cognitive processes of
gaining and structuring knowledge as well as giving meaning to experiences. In
essence, entrepreneurial learning refers to a dynamic and constant process of
acquiring, assimilating, organizing and linking the new knowledge and competencies
with pre-existing structures to be retrievable for use in routine and strategic actions
(Cope 2005; Holcomb et al. 2009; Minniti and Bygrave 2001; Rae and Carswell
This process has three main components including experience, transformation
process and knowledge, and enables entrepreneurs to effectively recognize and
exploit entrepreneurial opportunities and deal with problems and crises of the new
business (Politis 2005). Learning that occurs through facing, overcoming and
reflecting on problems and challenges of new venture creation and development is
more influential in enhancing entrepreneurial competencies and success or failure of
the entrepreneurial venturing (Cope and Watts 2000; Cope 2005; 2003; Fayolle and
Gailly 2008; Pittaway and Cope 2007; Politis 2005). The profound impacts of
learning through overcoming novel problems and critical events is because of
diversity in the knowledge and competencies accumulated from novel challenges and
crises compared to familiar domains (Holcomb et al. 2009). In addition to the
ongoing debates on conceptualization of entrepreneurial learning, Lans et al. (2008)
criticized entrepreneurship research because of lack of a comprehensive model for
learning entrepreneurial competencies. Based on the above discussion and looking at
learning entrepreneurial competencies from an education perspective (Lans and
Mulder 2009; Lans et al. 2008) in the context of university entrepreneurship
programs, the following sections examine different aspects of the entrepreneurial
learning process including experience, social interaction and reflection in order to

build the foundations for developing a model for entrepreneurial leadership
development based on an integrated approach to entrepreneurial learning.
Entrepreneurial learning and experience
There is a strong belief in that entrepreneurial learning is an action-orientated
process through which entrepreneurs experience various phases of business creation
and management. In particular, entrepreneurial leadership learning occurs through
an experiential process of running a new business through which entrepreneurs
develop their understanding and practice of leadership in a naturalistic context
(Kempster and Cope 2010). Each and every experience changes entrepreneurs’
knowledge in some area and enhances their confidence in that area (Minniti and
Bygrave 2001). It is argued that ‘by gaining experience in a certain domain, a
person’s accumulated knowledge will contain more concepts and become more
interconnected, thereby increasing proficiency’ (Holcomb et al. 2009, 171).
Experience also improves entrepreneurs’ creativity, business skills, networks and
business reputation (Politis 2005). Holcomb et al. (2009) developed a model of
entrepreneurial learning which categorizes experiential learning process into two
types of ‘direct experiential learning’ and ‘vicarious learning’. While ‘direct
experiential learning’ refers to the process of knowledge accumulation from directly
experiencing various aspects of business management, ‘vicarious learning’ is the
process through which entrepreneurs accumulate knowledge by observing the
behaviours and actions of others and related outcomes. They further argued that
both of the experiential learning processes affect knowledge acquisition and action;
however, entrepreneurs tend to rely more on their own prior failure experiences
rather than failures of others. Kempster (2009) also suggests that entrepreneurs’
leadership learning occur through experiences of their own actions and observing
others. The authors emphasized that observational learning, which occurs through
interaction with others, not only shapes entrepreneurs’ understandings of leadership
but also changes their leadership practices.
Accordingly, for many educators gaining theoretical knowledge about entrepreneurship
is not enough for learning how to manage entrepreneurial venturing
effectively, unless it is complemented with experience (Henry et al. 2005; Politis
2005). Entrepreneurship educators emphasize significant and long-lasting impacts of
learning that happens through practicing various roles and tasks of an entrepreneur
on developing students’ personal, functional and behavioural entrepreneurship
competencies. First, experiential learning opportunities increase students’ desire and
intention to become an entrepreneur (Fiet 2000; Peterman and Kennedy 2003). The
programs enhance students’ self-awareness (being conscious about their entrepreneurial
abilities and weaknesses) and their needs for improvement, creativity and
propensity to take risks (Fuchs et al. 2008; Harris and Gibson 2008; Matlay 2006;
2005; Pittaway and Cope 2007; Smith et al. 2006). Moreover, experiential learning
enhances students’ specific entrepreneurial competencies for leading their own
business and successfully overcoming the inherited challenges and crises of
entrepreneurial venturing (Dhliwayo 2008; Pittaway and Cope 2007; Okudan and
Rzasa 2006; Smith et al. 2006). In effect, through such activities students experience
failure, learn from it and thereby develop their abilities to deal with more serious
challenges in the future (Fayolle and Gailly 2008). Experience also develops social
skills in students, ‘skills that are hard to acquire from a non-practitioner or a

classroom situation’ (Dhliwayo 2008, 333). Finally, through experience students ‘can
generate new meaning which consequently leads to change in thinking and
behaviour’ (Fayolle and Gailly 2008, 580). Furthermore, experiential methods of
entrepreneurship education enhance acceptance and demands of students for
entrepreneurship programs and are more influential in developing their entrepreneurial
competencies (Plaschka and Welsch 1990). As such, Fuchs et al. (2008)
emphasized that students should be given the opportunity to gain as much practical
experience as possible. Such real-life experiences usually have much more lasting
effects on pupils. However, there is a wide gap in our knowledge about how such
programs help students to develop their entrepreneurial leadership capabilities
(Okudan and Rzasa 2006).
How to combine entrepreneurship theory and practice has been one of the most
critical issues in entrepreneurship education. Henry et al. (2005) stated that active
and experiential methods of entrepreneurship education should not result in
ignorance of theory. Fiet (2000) also advocates including theories in entrepreneurship
courses to enhance students’ cognitive skills for better entrepreneurial decision
making. In contrast, commentators on concentrating more on entrepreneurship
theories propose the deficiencies of theory-based approaches to entrepreneurship
education in developing creativity, innovativeness and practical abilities of
entrepreneurship students (Dhliwayo 2008; Heinonen and Poikkijoki 2006; Tan
and Ng 2006). Therefore, many educators are of the opinion that students should be
provided with highly experiential and challenging learning activities which affect
their entrepreneurial competencies development (Pittaway and Cope 2007; Hannon
2006; Heinonen and Poikkijoki 2006).
Entrepreneurial learning and social interaction
Despite the robust body of research on the relationship between entrepreneurial
learning and experience, the literature on social aspects of entrepreneurial learning
process is surprisingly scarce. However, many empirical research findings indicate
the necessity of social interactions in the whole process of entrepreneurial learning
(Cope 2005;Man and Yu 2007; Pittaway and Cope 2007). In essence, entrepreneurial
learning occurs in a complex and dynamic process of personal interaction with the
environment (Cope 2003; 2005; Rae 2007; 2000) which shapes and develops the
entrepreneurial perceptions, attitudes and abilities (Rae and Carswell 2000). In
particular, entrepreneurial leadership capabilities develop only by being engaged in a
dynamic process of interaction between personal and contextual factors (Holt et al.
2007; Kempster and Cope 2010; Kuratko 2007; Vecchio 2003). Social interactive
learning enables entrepreneurs to explore opportunities and cope with the crises of
new business management (Corbett 2005; Heinonen and Poikkijoki 2006; Pittaway
and Cope 2007). Surie and Ashley (2008) concluded that by executing the various
entrepreneurial roles and activities, entrepreneurs learn entrepreneurial leadership
through social interactions and a process of socialization. Kempster (2009)
emphasized that not only availability of social interactions with ‘notable people’
highly influence entrepreneurs’ leadership learning and development but also variety
and diversity of social interactions significantly affect their leadership learning
(Kempster 2009, 440).
Concentrating on how social interactions develop students’ entrepreneurial
learning, Fuchs et al. (2008) emphasized that social interactions improve students’

self-awareness of their weaknesses and strengths as well as their maturity in
communication skills and networking. The authors further explained that social
interactions help students to share and challenge their different insights and
reasoning processes, discover weak points on their reasoning and the ways to
improve them, correct one another, adjust their understanding on the basis of others’
understanding and, more importantly, apply the acquired knowledge and skills to
solve the problems. Additionally, the knowledge gained as a result of social
interactions between people who have different experiences and perspectives is in a
level higher than the learning acquired by individuals (Pittaway and Cope 2007).
Furthermore, the synergy between individual and collective learning makes
entrepreneurial learning more in-depth and long-lasting (Man and Yu 2007; Smith
et al. 2006). Such social interactive programs also provide social experiences through
which students practice significant responsibilities that enhance their desire to step
into entrepreneurship (Peterman and Kennedy 2003). Additionally, social interactive
learning enhances creativity and innovativeness which are the core components of
the whole entrepreneurship process (Ko and Butler 2007; Rae 2006).
Entrepreneurship education programs provide various opportunities for students’
social interactions (Peterman and Kennedy 2003) which develop their
entrepreneurial competencies in general and entrepreneurial leadership in particular
(Vecchio 2003). The programs provide opportunities for interactions with lecturers
and peers in groups which is critical for the entrepreneurial learning process and
improves students’ affection on entrepreneurial activities as well as their perceived
level of entrepreneurial competencies (Man and Yu 2007; Pittaway and Cope 2007).
Furthermore, social conflicts and challenges that students experience through
developing a new business idea and gaining agreement within their group play a
major role in enabling them to reassess their actions and radically change their
mindset and behaviour (Pittaway and Cope 2007). Therefore, ‘it seems extremely
useful to have students from different backgrounds in order to enhance social
learning’ in entrepreneurship education (Heinonen 2007, 319).
Entrepreneurship education programs also facilitate students’ access to groups of
entrepreneurial-minded people. The programs provide opportunities for students to
be exposed to entrepreneurs and investors on occasions such as training, club
meeting and business dealing where they have the chance to observe and learn from
successful role models (Souitaris et al. 2007; Zhao et al. 2005).
Entrepreneurial learning and reflection
While many entrepreneurship researchers defined entrepreneurial learning as a
combination of experience and social interaction, many others believe that this is not
enough for mastering a complex and dynamic process such as entrepreneurship
(Cope 2005; 2003; Cope and Watts 2000; Pittaway and Cope 2007). For them
effective entrepreneurial learning occurs only if entrepreneurs involve in a process of
analyzing and interpreting experiential and theoretical knowledge in various forms
of reflection (Pittaway and Cope 2007). In fact, reflective learning has been
considered as the most significant learning mechanism for entrepreneurs that creates
fundamental changes in their self-awareness and insights on how to manage their
business effectively (Cope 2003; Cope and Watts 2000).
It is through reflection that entrepreneurs learn to inquire into meaning of events
in various occasions such as their past experiences and social interactions.

Furthermore, reflection enables entrepreneurs to not only assimilate, reframe and
restructure their understanding and acquired knowledge from different events but
also apply the learning outcomes to recognize the requisite personal skills and the
actions that need to be taken in order to predict and/or prevent potential crises and
challenges of their business management (Cope 2003; Cope and Watts 2000;
Holcomb et al. 2009). Holcomb et al. (2009) noted that successive assimilation of
accumulated knowledge ‘more tightly couples underlying knowledge, deepens
understanding, and facilitates future learning and action’ (171). This point
emphasizes the role of reflection for bringing together and consolidating the
disparate knowledge acquired from various contexts specifically experiences and
social interactions (Pittaway and Cope 2007). More importantly, reflective learning
demonstrates the critical role of individuals to successfully assimilate and organize
the newly acquired knowledge and necessitates developing the capabilities of
entrepreneurs to effectively gain a higher level of knowledge by exploring the
relationships of the fragmented information accumulated from various resources
(Holcomb et al. 2009).
Cope (2005) argued that through reflection on the previous problems and
challenges entrepreneurs develop a generative learning which is both retrospective
(based on previous experiences) and prospective (transferring the knowledge for
future decision making), adaptive and proactive. In Young and Sexton’s (2003) point
of view entrepreneurs engage in learning activities because of their reactive and
proactive reflection on opportunities or problems that hinder the growth and
development of their businesses. Therefore, a ‘proactive reflection’ on past events
enables entrepreneurs to overcome future crises and challenges involved in their
business management. It is through the process of reactive and proactive reflection
that entrepreneurs ‘learn how to learn’ more effectively. However, for many
entrepreneurs learning through reflection is very difficult because they are not used to
reflect on their actions (Cope and Watts 2000). In order to successfully lead
entrepreneurial endeavours, therefore, entrepreneurial leaders need to develop their
abilities to learn from reflection.
Developing entrepreneurial abilities of students through reflective learning has
only recently emerged in entrepreneurship education programs. However, inadequacy
of traditional entrepreneurship education approaches in facilitating proactive
reflection and developing students’ entrepreneurial competencies has been recognized
by scholars. Concentrating on this neglected aspect of entrepreneurship
education, Pittaway and Cope (2007) developed a program called ‘a new venture
planning’. The program provides various opportunities for students to reflect on
their entrepreneurial learning and thereby unify and strengthen their learning
outcomes from different entrepreneurial activities. However, to date there is no
comprehensive model for entrepreneurial competencies learning that integrates
various aspects of entrepreneurial learning in order to develop the specific
competencies in prospective entrepreneurs that enable them to successfully play
critical roles and tasks of an entrepreneur (Lans et al. 2008).
A proposed model for entrepreneurial leadership development based on an integrated
approach to entrepreneurial learning
One of the main concerns of this conceptual paper was to develop a model of
entrepreneurial leadership learning and development for which no other model has

been developed yet. Drawing upon the conceptual and theoretical foundations of
entrepreneurial leadership and a dynamic and integrated approach to entrepreneurial
learning (Lans and Mulder 2009), a model for entrepreneurial leadership
competencies development is proposed. The model represents entrepreneurial
leadership development as a process of interaction and incorporation of different
forms of entrepreneurial learning including experience, observation, social interaction
and reflection (see Figure 1). According to the model, active involvement in
different types of entrepreneurial learning develops entrepreneurial leadership
competencies including competencies required for ‘Scenario enactment’ namely
proactivess, innovativeness and risk taking as well as ‘Cast enactment’ which are
commitment building and specifying limitations (Gupta et al. 2004; Swiercz and
Lydon 2002). The model is based on a comprehensive approach to entrepreneurial
leadership competencies indicating that the competencies can be learned and
developed and are interrelated (Baron and Ensly 2006; Lans and Mulder 2009). On
the other hand, performing various leadership tasks and roles in entrepreneurial
contexts improves entrepreneurs’ understanding and competence of leadership in
relation to others and their business environment (Kempster and Cope 2010).
Leadership practices enhance learning entrepreneurial competencies through
constantly acquiring new behaviours, developing new ways of thinking and learning
‘how to learn’ from various resources (Cope and Watts 2000).The purpose for
employing an integrated approach to entrepreneurial leadership competencies and
entrepreneurial learning is threefold: first, to accommodate the complexities and
multi-faceted nature of entrepreneurial leadership learning and development
(Cogliser and Brigham 2004; Kempster and Cope 2010); second, to include both
generic abilities and specific leadership competencies of entrepreneurial leaders (Lans
and Mulder 2009) and contain interdependent nature of entrepreneurial leadership
competencies (Gupta et al. 2004; Lans et al. 2008); third, to appreciate the
reinforcing and strengthening characteristic of entrepreneurial learning components
which have significant influences on developing entrepreneurial leadership competencies
(Pittaway and Cope 2007). Based on the model, entrepreneurial leadership
competencies can be learned and developed through a process of experiencing
various roles and tasks of the leader in entrepreneurial endeavours (Gupta et al.
2004; Kempster and Cope, 2010), social interactions with entrepreneurial-minded
people (Kempster and Cope 2010; Surie and Ashely 2008), observing real leadership

practices in entrepreneurial contexts (Holcomb et al. 2009; Kempster 2009) and
reflecting on leadership performances and entrepreneurial learning outcomes (Cope
2003; 2005; Cope and Watts 2000; Lans et al. 2008; Pittaway and Cope 2007).
Accordingly, entrepreneurship educators may need to provide a balanced
opportunity for students in all forms of entrepreneurial leadership learning through
a comprehensive and integrated approach to entrepreneurship education if they are
to increase the number and competencies of future entrepreneurial leaders. To do so,
entrepreneurship educators can provide students with project-based and real life
problem solving learning opportunities (Okudan and Rzasa 2006) where they can
experience the roles of an entrepreneurial leader and the challenges associated with
entrepreneurial venturing, learn from various social interactions, and reflect on their
performances and learning outcomes (Pittaway and Cope 2007). Entrepreneurship
educators also need to focus more on observational learning, the recently emerging
aspect of entrepreneurial leadership learning and development (Holcomb et al. 2009;
Kempster 2009). In particular, students should be provided with reflective learning
opportunities that enable them to make the best use of acquired knowledge from
experience, observation and social interaction. However, reflective learning is the
most neglected aspect of entrepreneurial learning in entrepreneurship education
which deserves more attention (Cope and Watts 2000).
Conclusion and implications of the proposed model
The main purpose of the current article was to develop a model for entrepreneurial
leadership development through reviewing and synthesising the current knowledge
on entrepreneurial leadership and entrepreneurial learning as a complex and multilevel
process (Kempster and Cope 2010). Through integrating different aspects of
entrepreneurial learning, this model develops a dynamic perspective on the process
of entrepreneurial learning and how it links to entrepreneurial leadership
development. In addition, it describes the influences of different entrepreneurial
learning aspects in developing entrepreneurial leadership competencies. According to
the model, entrepreneurial leadership development is a dynamic process of learning
from experience, observation, and social interaction and transforming the acquired
knowledge through a process of reflection to recognize entrepreneurial opportunities
as well as creating novel solutions for challenges and crises of leading entrepreneurial
This integrated learning approach to entrepreneurial leadership development has
an influential impact on shaping the mindset and behaviour of entrepreneurial
leaders particularly, when they are encountered with new opportunities and
challenges. It also indicates that all of these learning elements are critical in learning
entrepreneurial leadership (Cogliser and Brigham 2004; Kempster and Cope 2010).
In addition, it focuses on various sources through which individuals can acquire
entrepreneurial knowledge and competencies and reinforcing effects of each learning
source in others which is mostly overlooked in entrepreneurial learning (Holcomb
et al. 2009). Furthermore, the model emphasizes on the role of individuals in
managing and transforming the accumulated knowledge to develop entrepreneurial
leadership competencies through considering reflection as one of the core
components of entrepreneurial leadership development.
Through a comprehensive approach to entrepreneurial leadership learning, the
proposed model can be applied in research and practice development for

entrepreneurs as well as entrepreneurial leaders in organizational settings, though it
presents entrepreneurial leadership development mostly based on entrepreneurial
learning opportunities provided by university entrepreneurship education programs.
Entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial leaders in established organizations may consider
all these aspects of learning as influential in their entrepreneurial leadership
development and enhance their entrepreneurial leadership competencies through
active involvement in entrepreneurship education (Kempster and Cope 2010).
Specifically, they may find developing their capabilities of learning through
experience, social interaction and particularly observation and reflection as insightful
in their entrepreneurial leadership development and increase the probability of their
success in leading entrepreneurial activities. More importantly, the model may help
entrepreneurial leaders to identify the neglected aspects of their learning that hinders
their leadership learning (Kempster 2009).
Entrepreneurship educators may also develop entrepreneurial leadership
competencies of university students as prospective entrepreneurial leaders by
employing a comprehensive and integrated approach to designing entrepreneurship
education and training programs. The programs should engage students in various
entrepreneurial leadership learning opportunities in which they acquire the
knowledge and competencies for successfully leading entrepreneurial endeavours.
Specifically, entrepreneurship educators can design specific entrepreneurial leadership
programs and competence-based curricula based on each and every aspect of
entrepreneurial leadership learning. In conclusion, if based on the model,
entrepreneurial leadership development happens through a dynamic mechanism
of experience, observation, social interaction, and reflection and more importance
should be placed on developing the abilities of entrepreneurial leaders in learning
from a variety of learning opportunities. However, providing students with a
balance of all these aspects of entrepreneurial leadership learning is another
challenge that entrepreneurship educators need to face. Currently, there exist some
elements of entrepreneurial learning in entrepreneurship education and training
programs that may develop basic entrepreneurial leadership in students (Okudan
and Rzasa 2006), while offering a combination of all different aspects of
entrepreneurial leadership learning seems to more effectively develop the specific
competencies that future entrepreneurial leaders require to successfully lead
entrepreneurial venturing. Moreover, entrepreneurship students can consider each
of the different aspects of entrepreneurial leadership learning as influential in
learning competencies required for leading their future entrepreneurial venturing
and engage in different entrepreneurial learning opportunities to develop their
entrepreneurial leadership competencies.
The proposed model for entrepreneurial leadership learning and development has
several implications for entrepreneurship researchers. First, the model provides a
research stepping stone for investigating entrepreneurial leadership learning and
development. Moreover, entrepreneurship researchers may include all aspects of
entrepreneurial learning in examining entrepreneurial leadership development.
Furthermore, the model provides a better understanding of entrepreneurial
leadership learning and can be the first step in developing a theory for
entrepreneurial leadership development. Finally, entrepreneurship researchers may
consider different aspects of entrepreneurial leadership development in evaluating
the effectiveness of entrepreneurship education programs in developing students’
competencies of leading entrepreneurial activities.

Although the model may have significant implications for entrepreneurial
leadership practice, education and research, it needs empirical evidence to support its
reliability and applicability in developing entrepreneurial leadership competencies of
university students, current entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial leaders in organizations.
The effectiveness of the model in developing entrepreneurial leadership
competencies also needs to be tested in different contexts and with indigenous data to
examine if entrepreneurial leadership development is a contextual and culturally
dependent concept. In particular, the model needs to be examined for students with
different cultural, educational and ethnic backgrounds to determine if demographic
factors affect the development of the entrepreneurial leadership competencies of
students. Entrepreneurship researchers may also investigate the possibilities and
outcomes of integrating different processes of entrepreneurial learning in developing
entrepreneurial leadership capabilities and if the combination of different
entrepreneurial learning can develop students’ specific entrepreneurial leadership
competencies. Moreover, future researches can examine how this variety of learning
opportunities helps students to develop their entrepreneurial leadership competencies
and how to provide a combination of all these aspects of entrepreneurial
leadership leaning and development. Research can also be undertaken to evaluate
which aspect of entrepreneurial leadership learning has more influential impacts on
developing students’ entrepreneurial leadership competencies, if entrepreneurial
leadership learning through these mechanisms develop students’ specific competencies
of entrepreneurial leadership, and which entrepreneurial leadership competencies
can be learned and developed through each of these entrepreneurial learning
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