Abstract for: The Hero and the Warrior in New Venture Growth

Many entrepreneurial successes are attributed to the strong personalities of the new venture leaders, who offer vision, inspire loyalty, and display tenacity in solving problems to achieve their goals. Successful start-up ventures may bias perceptions of the anecdotal benefits of personality-driven leadership in firms too young to have established processes, operationally and organizationally. Those ventures destroyed by the personalities of early leaders, because they no longer exist, offer few anecdotes with which to compare and counter legendary successes such as Apple and its visionary leader Steve Jobs or Amazon and its creative founder Jeff Bezos. This paper advances our thinking about the risks and rewards of personality-driven leadership in start-ups by exploring the dynamics that can arise from heroic leadership gone awry. Building on a case study of a key manager in a medical-device start-up, we identify causal relations and essential dynamics that may bring success to the leader but at the expense of the new venture’s viability. We discuss insights from the causal loops as they relate to the literature on leadership and outline next steps to advance the research.