By adopting a holistic view, entrepreneurship can be recognized as a distinct culture of its own, which inherits fundamentally different values compared to corporates. The results of this study prove that the difference in values is built on the distinct characteristics of startups founders, who strive for greater autonomy, meaning and flexibility which leads to the attraction of talents with similar personalities and motivational factors. The creation of this people cult manifests the separation of the startup ecosystem from corporates, in terms of the fluidity between the two worlds for employees, as startup employees are unlikely to inherit the values of corporate companies. These (as shown in the results section) include recognition, influence or material award and a greater norm orientation, which further displays the great cultural distinction that explains why startup employees rather move jobs within the startup ecosystem.
Thus, we come to the description of entrepreneurial culture as defined in the existing literature – of entrepreneurs as individuals who own and operate businesses closely aligned with their personal values, beliefs, interests, and passions. (Henricks, 2002; Marcketti, Niehm, & Fuloria, 2006)
Gender Differences in Leadership
In accordance with Eagly and Karau’s “Role congruity theory”, women have to adopt traditional male associated behaviors in order to be taken seriously as an effective leader (Merchant, 2012). Acting in alignment with their traditional gender role stereotype puts them at a disadvantage since they will be, compared to men, less exposed to opportunities, obtain less high statuses, power and access to resources. If women, however, act too differently from what they are expected to in order to meet the criteria that make up an effective leader, they experience harsh social backlash and find themselves punished for the identical behaviors men are being praised for (Phelan, 2010). That way women are constantly pulled between two extremes. Behaving in compliance with their female stereotypical role while demonstrating enough dominance in order to make up an effective leader without experiencing a social backlash.
Facing this dichotomy, women hence struggle in performing traditional leadership behavior without making concessions regarding their effectiveness or others’ expectations of their behavior.
Fortunately, current research provides a tangible solution to this issue. Meta-analytical evidence supports the assumption that transformational leadership is the most effective leadership style of all and that it is associated with the female gender role to a much higher extent than the male role is.
Transformational leadership, in comparison to traditional transactional leadership, which is characterized by the basic exchange of resources, strong supervision and management, applies four general factors to guide employees: idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation and individualized consideration. Thus, an effective transformational leader is capable of emphasizing intrinsic motivation, establishing a positive development of followers, raising awareness of moral standards, creating an ethical climate (share values, high ethical standards) and encouraging followers to look beyond self-interest to the common good. All qualities that perfectly align with the stereotypical female role. A meta-analysis by Engen and Eagly was able to confirm that female leaders showed more transformational leadership behavior than male leaders and engaged less in the contingent reward behaviors that are a component of transactional leadership. The results of this study are highly encouraging for women since in compliance with other research this paper has shown that all the aspects of leadership style on which women exceeded men are positively correlated with a leader’s’ effectiveness whereas all of the aspects on which men exceeded women have negative or null relations to effectiveness (Eagly, 2003). Transformational leadership according to current research is positively correlated with measures of performance effectiveness & satisfaction and outperforms traditional transactional leadership behavior which is associated with the male character (Dumdum, 2002). Women, generally are more likely than men to engage in transformational leadership behaviors, which are, as stated previously, related to overall leadership effectiveness, especially in modern organizations (Judge, 2004).
Accordingly, transformational leadership allows women to overcome the incongruity between the leader role and gender role expectations and above all put them at an advantage compared to men.
In order to facilitate the female founders’ leadership, we report some recommendations from previous literature to implement to make the process easier and smother:
- Provide female leaders with female mentors to guide them through leadership development, since female-role models help women to identify with success. Without mentors, emerging female leaders are unable to promote themselves and be assertive about their performance and ambitions (McKinsey, 2007);
- Ensure objective performance evaluations and establish 360-degree-feedback programs (crucial for development) to provide leadership ratings to overcome subjective biases (DeRue, Nahrgang, Hollenbeck & Workman, 2012; West, Meserve & Stanovich, 2012) and assist in interpreting the results;
- Educate managers and employees about gender stereotypes;
- Provide training in order to reduce gender-biased leader-perceptions & deconstruct stereotypes and help employees in their perception of their leader to avoid prejudice;
- Help decision-makers to overcome subjective biases, given the difficulty to detect in one’s own perceptions – it is easier to recognize in others (Lanaj & Hollenbeck, 2014).
- Create a culture of assessment & development targeted to women.
According to previous studies (E. Saint Michel, 2018), transformational leadership is an appropriate solution to the previous recommendations, since it allows women to overcome the incongruity between the leader role and gender role expectations. Transformational leadership, compared to other leadership styles, is positively correlated with leadership effectiveness, high performance, and employee satisfaction, since it is more associated with female leadership it is advantageous for women.
Further research should focus on:
- Generating tools and training for women to minimize the identified barriers;
- Leadership, resilience & achievement orientation training to enable women to grow their startups in the second critical developmental stage.