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Article
Publication date: 3 November 2020

Hongqin Li, Oswald Jones, William S. Harvey and Jie Yang

This article examines the influence of Daoist nothingness on leadership in growing Chinese small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Daoism is based on a “letting-go” approach…

Abstract

Purpose

This article examines the influence of Daoist nothingness on leadership in growing Chinese small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Daoism is based on a “letting-go” approach through maintaining inherent openness, which challenges goal-oriented and hierarchical approaches typical of Western and Confucian leadership theories. This facilitates the cross-fertilization of ideas related to the effective management of smaller firms.

Design/methodology/approach

This study focuses on SME leaders in a group of 12 growing SMEs in the Shanghai logistics industry in China. Narrative and semi-structured interviews explored emerging aspects beyond the established model of leadership associated with reputation-building. This led to in-depth, thick descriptions, broadening our understanding of leadership and reputation-building.

Findings

SME leaders follow nothingness by continuously adopting a letting-go approach which spontaneously fosters reputation-building. By maintaining inherent openness, nothingness functions as an enabling principle that mobilizes multi-beings leading to reputation-building in unintended ways.

Research limitations/implications

A greater plurality of empirical and methodological contexts in Western and non-Western countries helps to understand the dynamics and intersection of Daoist nothingness, leadership and reputation-building.

Practical implications

SME leaders recounted how they discursively practised nothingness for extended periods in their everyday practice. The study shows the significance of nothingness for SME leaders who aspire to grow their businesses by reputation-building among salient stakeholders.

Social implications

Daoist nothingness provides insights into the distinctive approach of Chinese SME leaders and their relationships with local and distant stakeholders. By engaging in active non-action they relax pre-determined intentions and immerse themselves in the process of leading, where the connections between goals and processes are automatically animated. Such an approach differs from the top-down and goal-oriented approach to leadership adopted in many Western SMEs.

Originality/value

This paper makes two theoretical contributions. First, it indicates the powerful influence of Daoist nothingness on leadership by drawing on the broader context of entrepreneurship in Chinese SMEs. Secondly, it enriches existing concepts such as reputation by endowment and reputation borrowing by demonstrating how Daoist nothingness silently fosters both local reputation and generalized reputation.

Details

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, vol. 27 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1355-2554

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Article
Publication date: 1 January 1996

Nelson K.H. Tang, Andrew Agnew and Oswald Jones

Small and medium‐sized firms (SMFs) can make valuable economic and social contributions through their distinctive capabilities for innovation. However, SMFs rarely possess…

Abstract

Small and medium‐sized firms (SMFs) can make valuable economic and social contributions through their distinctive capabilities for innovation. However, SMFs rarely possess adequate R&D resources and are therefore dependent upon external technological information. We believe that collaboration between higher education institutions (HEIs) and SMFs has considerable potential for strengthening innovatory activity in the UK. However, very little detailed information is available about the process of technology transfer from the perspectives of HEIs and SMFs. This paper examines ways in which HEIs establish links with SMFs as a means of commercializing their scientific and technological research. A questionnaire was used to obtain data from 37 HEIs on technological alliances with SMFs. In addition, a number of interviews were carried out with individuals responsible for marketing HEI science and technology.

Details

Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, vol. 3 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1462-6004

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Book part
Publication date: 17 June 2019

Oswald Jones

Teamwork has become increasingly prevalent both in undertaking research projects and in preparing papers for publication. While there are some reflections on the process…

Abstract

Teamwork has become increasingly prevalent both in undertaking research projects and in preparing papers for publication. While there are some reflections on the process of teamworking in the organisational studies literature, there is little published work in the area of entrepreneurship. Most existing studies distinguish between problems associated with task-based conflict and relationship-based conflict. In this chapter, the author provides an ethnographic account of a team involved with preparing a proposal and, subsequently, undertaking a small firm research project. The Evolution of Business Knowledge (EBK) was a major Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) initiative which funded 13 distinct projects. During the nine-month period of preparing and refining the research proposal, the team worked together extremely effectively. There were periods of intense knowledge sharing, which enabled the team to develop an impressive and successful bid to study the ‘EBK in 90 small firms’. A major dispute between team members, during the early stages of the fieldwork, led to a period of both task-based and relationship-based conflicts, which threatened to undermine the project. As a result of my first-hand experiences with the EBK project, the author suggests that accounts such as this will help those who find themselves operating in dysfunctional teams make sense of the underlying tensions associated with ‘academic knowledge creation’.

Details

Creating Entrepreneurial Space: Talking Through Multi-Voices, Reflections on Emerging Debates
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78769-577-1

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 8 May 2009

Oswald Jones

Abstract

Details

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, vol. 15 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1355-2554

Content available
Article
Publication date: 6 March 2009

Oswald Jones

Abstract

Details

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, vol. 15 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1355-2554

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Article
Publication date: 15 June 2010

Oswald Jones

Abstract

Details

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, vol. 16 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1355-2554

Content available
Article
Publication date: 12 June 2009

Oswald Jones

Abstract

Details

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, vol. 15 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1355-2554

Content available
Article
Publication date: 1 May 2007

Oswald Jones

Abstract

Details

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, vol. 13 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1355-2554

Content available
Article
Publication date: 23 January 2007

Oswald Jones

Abstract

Details

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, vol. 13 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1355-2554

Content available
Article
Publication date: 13 June 2008

Oswald Jones

Abstract

Details

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, vol. 14 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1355-2554

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