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The study was conducted to identify various leadership styles among women entrepreneurs. Sample consisted of 25 medium size successful enterprises started and run by a woman in Mumbai city (India). The enterprises were identified through reference mechanism and then selected on the basis of inclusive criteria. Findings reveal that most women entrepreneurs adopt Task Oriented leadership style and the remaining go for various combination of leadership styles instead of a single style.


Emerging from the limited role of a homemaker and child bearer, today women are exploring and entering into new fields of economic participation. Since 1970 the share of women owned businesses has grown from 5% to more than 90%. According to 1981 census report there were 1.5 lac self - employed women in the country (SIDO, 1989). In the small scale sector of industry, less than 7% enterprises have been set up by women. Out of 16.5 million non formal entrepreneurs owning sole proprietorship, women entrepreneurs represent 6 million. Compared to this, in the US there was a rise of 69% in self-employed women (Schever, Brodzinski & Wiebe, 1990). Major motivational factors that drive women towards entrepreneurship are a desire to do something independently (Rani, 1986), economic compulsion, use of knowledge and skills, need for achievement, success of others and frustration in present job/occupation (Azad, 1989). Shah (1990) summarized major motives behind women joining business. They are: economic needs/pressures, utilization of education and experience, husband’s (family’s) interest and support, availability of free time, finance, desires to become independent and personal ego satisfaction. Sethi (1994) lists economic compulsion, education, work experience and urbanization as the collective forces which have given an impetus to women entrepreneurship.

At the same time there are certain psycho-social factors that have impeded the growth of women entrepreneurship, such as: discriminating treatment from society, lack of self-confidence, poor self-image, faulty socialization, lack of encouragement from family and role conflict (Azad, 1989). Women today have entered every line of business as men have. The main characteristic found among women entrepreneurs is diversity. (Holmquist & Sundin, 1988). Today, due to invisibility, we fail to realize that one among every four entrepreneurs is a woman.

Literature review indicates that there are hardly any studies on roles within enterprises headed by women /male entrepreneurs, especially in India. Thus this area needs special attention to guide upcoming women in business. As observed by BUSINESS TODAY (January, 2004): “ Women Entrepreneurs are coming up in a big way in India and thus it becomes important for HRM personnel to understand their behavior and design new and more effective HR policies for this special segment”. Be it woman leadership or man, today’s fast growing and challenging business environment demands organizations to perform efficiently and systematically, consciously and competently face and deal with the emerging changes. This calls for Leadership inputs at every level. It is well established that leadership has substantial influence on human performance and it is the quality and competency of human capital which determines success or failure of organizations. Leadership, therefore, is not to be perceived as position of power, but a skill that can enhance confidence in people by reorganizing each other’s strengths and work together towards achieving goals and targets of an organization. Studies on leadership styles of Women Entrepreneurs (Dorothy Moore & Holly Butter, 1995) though outside India, revealed that:

  • Interactive style of leadership is preferred and it attaches greater values to relations,
  • Women Entrepreneurs adapt more democratic behaviour than men entrepreneurs,
  • Women Entrepreneurs encourage teamwork,
  • There is less credit to formal power than personal power,
  • Women Entrepreneurs believe in empowering subordinates and
  • Women Entrepreneurs are found to be very good managers and are capable of playing multiple roles at the same time.

They tend to have a desire to build rather than a desire to win (Debra Burrell). Their strengths lie in empowering teams and staff, encouraging openness and responding more quickly to call for assistance. They are more tolerant of differences and are hence more skilled at managing diversity, are able to identify problems quickly and more accurately. They are more accessible and better at defining job expectation and providing valuable feedback.

Since women entrepreneurship is a fairly new phenomenon, till now research on male entrepreneurs has been taken as the standard to measure woman entrepreneurs. But research which reveals woman in business and her role as owner-manager and as an employee has been largely neglected (Goffee & Scase, 1985). The present study tries to identify the leadership styles that woman entrepreneurs adapt.


Entrepreneurs for the study were identified through reference mechanism. When approached or contacted directly or indirectly, they gave a very cold response. 60 women entrepreneurs were selected on the basis of the following criteria: enterprises with employee strength ( 90-100), investment size of (1 - 1.5 crores), and enterprise; having made some level of profit in last 5 years . To put it briefly, medium sized, successful units, large enough for testing leadership were selected. Out of the 60, 25 woman entrepreneurs agreed to be part of the study with the condition that their identity will be kept strictly confidential.

Two instruments - Managerial Behaviour Questionnaire (MBQ) by C.N. Dafatuar (2002) & Leadership Effectiveness Dimension Scale (LEDS) by Dr. Asha Hingar & Dr. Sangeeta Sharma were used for these entrepreneurs. MBQ was administered for knowing the leadership style of the entrepreneurs and LEDS to know the management practices adapted by them. All of them were quite enthused to be part of the study as they felt that the results of the study will be very insightful, informative and productive for them as well as for their enterprises. The study was conducted in and around Mumbai as it is the largest business center in the country having large number of registered offices and corporate enterprises and has a fair representation of women owner managers to select from. This was confirmed from the review of secondary data.


The MBQ contained eight different Leadership Styles : Task Oriented, Bureaucratic, Personalized Relations, Nurturant, Authoritative/Autocratic, Participative, Assertive + Participative + Nurturant, and Nurturant + Task. 25 Women Entrepreneurs who were part of the study revealed various styles and with various combinations. 16% of the sample were Task Oriented Leaders, 12% Participative + Nurturant Task Leaders, 12% Task Oriented + Personalized Relations Leaders,12% Task Oriented + Bureaucratic Leaders, 12% Autocratic + Participative Leaders, 12% Nurturant Leaders, 12% Participative Leaders, and 12% Bureaucratic + Personalized Relations Leaders.

Interestingly, the findings reveal that women entrepreneurs use a combination of leadership styles in their business life. However 16% used the TO leadership style which means that emphasis is given more to task rather than human aspects, with the belief that ends are more important than the means. She structures the role relation. She is less generous in the evaluation of those who are inefficient workers. This may be due to the reason that women entrepreneurs want to portray themselves to be tough as it is a new line of work for her where she still has to prove herself and also due to the cultural stigma of “man run society” so far. She portrays herself to be strong so that her employees do not take her lightly.

Olson and Currie (1992) conducted study on the personal value systems and business strategies adopted by woman entrepreneurs. They found that majority of women entrepreneurs selected defender category that is stressing on quality, service, better price and limited line of products & services. Defender strategy had personal values similar to the values classified by Prospectors (which means those who strive constantly to be first in offering now products) or Reactors (which means those who always respond to the environment and competition). Female security, sense of accomplishment, freedom and self-respect were cited as most important values by women entrepreneurs.

Secondly, the fact that a majority of them use a combination of leadership styles, this may be due to the factor that they do not want to miss out on anything and so trying to cover as many aspects as possible to be a better and successful leader. Till now woman was seen as a home make and child bearer but now she is entering new world of business and enterprise. Some level of versatility can be seen among them and this they try to carry forward while being an entrepreneur also. Since can be seen from the fact that they use combination of leadership styles instead of one. In the present study one set of them have shown combination of TO and B, whereas another set have shown combination of A and PR and lastly B and PR.

In adapting management practices TO leaders scores significantly higher (at 0.05 level) compared to all other leadership styles and P leaders scored the lowest (Table -1). But the total mean score of all 8 leadership styles was way above the accepted score. This means that leadership style doesn’t affect management practices negatively but it defiantly helps in elevating. This can also mean that giving more importance to tasks rather than human aspects is positively related to management practices.

High score by TO leaders on all six management practices (Table-1) means that these leaders are Emotional Stabilizer (ES), Team Builder (TB), Performance Orientor (PO), Potential Extractor (PE), Value Inculcator (VI) and Socially Intelligent (SI). The highest score among all the six practices was on PO, PE and SI, which means that compared to other 4 they are more concerned with accomplishment of task in stipulating time. They have task achievement motive, they adhere to high standards of performance, work efficiency, improvisation, prioritization of work and regular reorganization. They focus on development and utilization of skills and abilities of individuals. They are concerned with identification of potential, proper canalization of individual’s potential, providing proper opportunities to employees, delegating adequate authority and confidence building. SI means they adapt themselves according to the situation, with minimum facial reflection of feelings, are good listeners and analyzers. They clarify limitations and complaints, resolve conflict tactfully and keep track of the latest developments. High on PO and PE can be related positively with TO leadership style as they both have almost same functions.

The lowest score of management practices under TO leaders was on ES, TB and VI which means, compared to other 4 practices they give less priority to providing emotional stability, team building and less priority to inculcating values of commitment to work, loyalty, punctuality, trust base relations etc., to employees.


It can be concluded that most of Women Entrepreneurs adapt Task Oriented leadership style in their day-to-day practice. The rest adapt various combination of styles instead of single style. TO leaders are Emotional Stabilizer, Team Builder, Performance Orientor, Potential Extractor, Value Inculcator and Socially Intelligent. But in comparison to all they are more Performance Orientor, Potential Extractor and Socially Intelligent and are less on Emotional Stabilizer, Team Builder and Value Inculcator dimensions.


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ORS = Organization Role Stress

IRD = Inter Role Distance

RS = Role Stagnation

REC = Role Expectation Conflict

RE = Role Erosion

RO = Role Overload

RI = Role Isolation

PI = Personal Inadequacy

SRD = Self-Role Distance

RA = Role Ambiguity

RIN = Resource Inadequacy

RES = Role Efficacy Score

REI (%) = Role-Efficacy Index

MO = Motivational Orientation

Org. Comm. = Organizational Commitment

AOC = Affective Commitment

NOC = Normative Commitment

COC = Continuance Commitment

STL = Stress Tolerance Limit

CMS = Conflict Management Style

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