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Entrepreneurs as authentic leaders: impact on employees' attitudes

Susan M. Jensen (Department of Management, College of Business & Technology, University of Nebraska – Kearney, Kearney, Nebraska, USA)
Fred Luthans (Department of Management, College of Business Administration, University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 1 December 2006




The leadership of entrepreneurs/business founders, as perceived by their employees, has received limited research attention. Using the Authentic Leadership Model as a guiding framework, this study seeks to provide an exploratory examination of the linkage between employees' perception of the business founder as an authentic leader and the employees' attitudes and happiness.


Participants are employees (n=179) of 62 newer, smaller businesses. Each business represented in the study had been founded by a single owner still active in the daily operations of the company. Hierarchical linear modeling was used to analyze the two levels of data (individual and business level) gathered in the study.


As hypothesized, the employees' perception of authentic leadership serves as the strongest single predictor of employee job satisfaction (t=6.453, p=0.000), organizational commitment (t=6.665, p=0.000), and work happiness (t=5.488, p=0.000).

Research limitations/implications

A convenience sampling method limits the generalizability of results. Experimental and longitudinal future research is needed to assess issues of causality as well as the strength and duration of relationships noted. Future research should focus on how the authentic leadership of the founder/entrepreneur impacts not only employee attitudes, but also the performance and long‐term viability of the emerging organization.


This exploratory study offers the first application of the Authentic Leadership Model within the context of entrepreneurial ventures, and provides new insights into the relationship between entrepreneur/leader behavior and employee attitudes. Findings indicate that if employees in newer, small organizations view their founder/entrepreneur as an authentic leader, it can have a positive impact on their work‐related attitudes and happiness.



Jensen, S.M. and Luthans, F. (2006), "Entrepreneurs as authentic leaders: impact on employees' attitudes", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 27 No. 8, pp. 646-666.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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