Theory E²: Working with Entrepreneurs in Closely-Held Enterprises — I. Close to the Heart

Theory E²: Working with Entrepreneurs in Closely-Held Enterprises — I. Close to the Heart

In this instance, the entrepreneurial challenge is one of finding coherence and continuity in the midst of the informality and flexibility—reminding one of the challenge that is associated with our second issue (tacit intentions). In a closely held enterprise, one finds coherence and continuity, not in the rules and regulations of the organization, but instead in the distinctive stories that each member of the enterprise can tell regarding the organization and her role in the organization. As psychologists working with leaders in closely held enterprises we are constantly in the business of eliciting and listening to stories—this is what holds the enterprise together and provides members of the enterprise with guidance regarding how to work with one another. Story telling is much more valuable in closely held enterprises than are attempts to artificially imposed rules and regulations. Some sociologists identify this approach as the discovery of “natural helping networks.” These networks often operate very effectively in closely held enterprises, and must be honored and supported, rather than being bypassed by some external version of how an “effective organization should run.”

5. Powerful Role of Leader

At the heart of the matter in closely held enterprises is the central, integrative force in this organization—namely, the entrepreneurial leader or cluster of leaders. Typically, the closely-held enterprise is highly dependent on this leader or cluster of leaders: “I don’t know what we’d do if she wasn’t here.” “He is the ‘life blood’ of this organization.”

Usually, there are high levels of loyalty to the leader or cluster of leaders. Furthermore, there typically are low levels of independence from the leader on the part of those who are working in the enterprise. This can be a further source of burnout on the part of both the leader and follower. The leader is ambivalent about the dependency of her staff. “I wish they would make up their own minds sometimes, rather than always coming to me for my advice.” Yet, this entrepreneur never quite lets her staff off of a very short leash and can be very critical if a mistaken action is taken without consulting her. There is often a demoralizing “I-told-you-so” response from the entrepreneur

We will have much more to say about entrepreneurial leadership in a later essay.


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About the Author

William Bergquist

William BergquistWilliam Bergquist, Ph.D. An international coach and consultant, professor in the fields of psychology, management and public administration, author of more than 45 books, and president of a graduate school of psychology. Dr. Bergquist consults on and writes about personal, group, organizational and societal transitions and transformations. His published work ranges from the personal transitions of men and women in their 50s and the struggles of men and women in recovering from strokes to the experiences of freedom among the men and women of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Bergquist has focused on the processes of organizational coaching. He is coauthor with Agnes Mura of coachbook, co-founder of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations and co-founder of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations. His graduate school (The Professional School of Psychology: offers Master and Doctoral degrees in both clinical and organizational psychology to mature, accomplished adults.

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