Entrepreneurial passion is often viewed as both a strength and a weakness. On one hand, it is beneficial, even vital, for an entrepreneur to be able to fearlessly champion his or her cause, converting skeptics into believers and passive observers into impassioned proponents. On the other hand, it is less clear that the ability to champion an idea brings with it the steadiness of hand and mind needed to successfully launch a new venture.
New research appearing in the journal Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice attempts to reconcile these competing views. Specifically, a team of researchers led by Sylvia Hubner of the National University of Singapore designed a series of experiments to test the idea that entrepreneurial passion is predictive of organizational success.
They found that it was. The researchers write, “We conceptualize entrepreneurial passion as an intense positive emotional experience felt by individuals engaging in entrepreneurial activities. [...] Building on emotional contagion theory, we explain the contagion mechanism that determines how entrepreneurs’ entrepreneurial passion stimulates an entrepreneurial passion response in employees, which in turn affects employee outcomes such as their commitment and work performance.”
To arrive at this conclusion, Hubner and her team contacted 800 German firms. They asked founders and employees of these firms if they would be willing to take a short survey. Of the 800 companies contacted, 163 employees and 73 entrepreneurs completed the survey.
In the survey, the researchers asked company founders to rate their entrepreneurial passion by indicating their level of agreement with statements such as, “Owning my own company energizes me.” They also asked employees to rate the passion they felt for being involved in a new company. For example, employees indicated their agreement with statements such as, “Participating in the process of building a new venture excites me.” The researchers also measured employees’ emotional commitment to the company.
They found that employees working for entrepreneurs who expressed a high degree of entrepreneurial passion were more likely to express passion themselves. This, they suggest, supports the notion that entrepreneurial passion can serve as a social contagion. Furthermore, employees reported a deeper level of commitment to companies led by highly passionate founders.
Next, the researchers attempted to understand the factors that contributed to employees’ judgments of entrepreneurial passion. They designed an experiment in which participants were asked to imagine they were an employee of a given firm. They were shown a short video of the firm’s founder and were asked to rate the founder on a number of attributes, including entrepreneurial passion. The researchers altered the video in two important ways. First, some participants were shown a video in which in which the founder expressed a high degree of passion (for instance, using statements such as “It's great fun,” “It’s what drives us every day,” and “I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world”). Another version of the video showed a more subdued founder revealing aspects of his identity, but without the impassioned rallying cry expressed in the first video (for example, using language such as “It’s part of who I am” and “I'll continue doing this for the rest of my life”).
Interestingly, Hubner and her team found that both passion and identity displays influenced employee perceptions of entrepreneurs’ passion. They write, “The contagion of entrepreneurial passion is not only possible when entrepreneurs show their strong positive emotions toward entrepreneurial activities but also when they display their entrepreneurial identity. This is a welcome finding for entrepreneurs who feel uncomfortable when showing emotions, for example, because they are shy or introverted.”Ref: https://www.forbes.com/sites/traversmark/2019/11/18/how-important-is-entrepreneurial-passion-to-a-startups-success-new-research-explores/?sh=5557886877d0