The distinctive challenges and opportunities for creating leadership within social enterprises

Brad Jackson, Matthew Nicoll, Michael J. Roy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Purpose
The purpose of this study is to present a systematic assessment of the distinctive challenges and opportunities associated with creating leadership within the realm of social enterprise. A modified and expanded form of Grint’s leadership lenses heuristic framework (i.e. person, position, process, performance, purpose and place) is used to examine and highlight what is particular about creating leadership in social enterprises by virtue of their distinctive missions, strategic contexts, legal forms and organisational structures and cultures. Based on this initial exploration, five research priorities are identified to better understand and then develop leadership practice in the social enterprise realm.

Design/methodology/approach
An enhanced heuristic framework for systematically examining leadership within the social enterprise research literature has been applied, drawing on the leadership practice literature. The application is illustrated through six instrumental case studies.

Findings
While there are a number of similarities between leading in the social enterprise realm and leading within the private, public and not-for-profit sectors, the levels of complexity, ambiguity and the lack of an established theoretical and practical knowledge base makes creating leadership in the social enterprise sector that much more challenging. On the positive side of the ledger, the fact that the purpose is at the core of social enterprise means that it is relatively easier to use the purpose to create a basis for common meaningful action, compared to leadership within the private and public sectors. Related to this, given the strongly local or “glocal” nature of social enterprise, a ready opportunity exists for leaders to draw upon a place as a strategic resource in mobilising followers and other stakeholders. The novel, uncertain and pioneering nature of a social enterprise is also arguably more tolerant and accommodating of a leadership mindset that focuses on posing questions regarding “wicked” problems compared to public, private for-profit and, indeed, traditional not-for-profit sector organisations.

Originality/value
As far as we can ascertain, this is the first systematic attempt to examine the distinctive challenges and opportunities associated with creating leadership within the social enterprise realm. The application of the heuristic framework leads to the identification of five key inter-related lines of empirical research into leadership practices within social enterprises.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-91
Number of pages21
JournalSocial Enterprise Journal
Volume14
Issue number1
Early online date1 Jan 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 5 Feb 2018

Keywords

  • social enterprise
  • leadership
  • governance
  • leadership practice
  • Grint

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