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LEADERSHIP VISION OF SUCCESSFUL WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS: DIMENSIONS AND CHARACTERISTICS
Candida G. Brush
Barbara J. Bird
Graduate School of Management
621 Commonwealth Ave.
Boston, MA 02215
Although studies of entrepreneurial vision are emerging, little is known about the role of vision in leadership practices of women entrepreneurs. This research explores the content of leadership vision of 60 successful women entrepreneurs, examines the relationship of personal and company characteristics to vision, and compares these findings to results from a previous study of entrepreneurs that employed the same survey instrument.
Method and Data Base
A sample of 225 successful women entrepreneurs were identified from publicly available sources. "Success" was defined as an appearance on a media listing such as Working Women Magazine's Top 50 Women Entrepreneurs, or a similar regional or city published list. These women were mailed a short 4 page questionnaire that included a 26 item scale of vision items previously used by Larwood, et al, (1995) and reflected alpha reliability of .53. Measures of personal characteristics were adapted from previous work by these authors. Demographics, organizations characteristics, and other data also were collected. We received a response rate of 26% or 60 usable responses. Descriptive statistics, factor analysis, and correlations were run on this data.
Descriptive statistics showed that 70% of the respondents were founders, and 70% had worked within their company for more than 10 years, and were between 45 and 55 years old. Overall, they were well educated, nearly 40% had graduate degrees. Their companies employed an average of 40-60 employees, and had sales of $1 million in 1994. Principal component factor analysis of the 26 vision items yielded a solution very similar to previous studies, with 66% of the variance explained, which was greater than the 58% noted in the Larwood & Falbe (1995)
study. Five of the seven factors were nearly identical to previous studies, except that the factors explaining the highest amount of variance were different. In our study, factor 1 was "innovative realism" which explained 24% of the variance, and "vision formulation" emerged as factor (9.8% variance, while in Larwood & Falbe's (1995) study, the factors and variance explained was exactly reversed; 5.8% for "innovative realism" and 25% for "vision formulation". Correlation analyses between factor scores and personal characteristics showed that firm tenure (p.003, .424) and tenure in position (p <.05, .26) were significantly related to the factor called "vision implementation". The factor called "risk-taking" was significantly related to both length of time vision was held (p <.066, .282) and the age of the entrepreneur (p <.069, .280). The factor "general" was also related to length of time vision was held (p <.001, .493), firm tenure (p M.049, .289), age of the woman entrepreneur (p <.12, .364) as well as the number of people reporting to her, but this was a negative association (p <.057, -.279).
This exploratory study reveals that the dimensions of vision of successful women entrepreneurs can be characterized by "innovative realism", in particular, flexibility, innovation, action-oriented, integrated, changing and inspirational. Although the factor solution was vary similar to previous studies which employed this same instrument, the results indicate that women define their vision differently than their male counterparts who emphasize "strategy formulation", which includes the variables planned, long term, formalized and strategic (Larwood & Falbe, 1995). These results, limited by small sample size, also suggest that experience, in the form of tenure in a position and organization, is important to vision implementation. Besides attempts to expand our sample, future research will explore in greater detail the relationship between vision and firm strategy, and performance, as well as possible associations between vision and organizational structure.