Entrepreneurial Leadership Strategy Approach in Leading Nike’s Growth


It has been established that the organisation’s sole dependence on strong leaders and the effectiveness of its command chains is insufficient to meet the desired goals and objectives. Thus, a successful leader should be capable of aligning leadership skills, behaviour, collective capabilities and leadership culture to business strategies; thereby, creating an effective leadership strategy (Pasmore, 2014). Multiple researchers have found a positive relationship between business capabilities such as innovation and organisational growth (Lockett et al., 2013). Similarly, it is evidenced that an entrepreneurial leadership strategy emphasises innovation as a means to attain superior organisational performance (Selvaraja and Pihie, 2017). Therefore, this report provides an analysis of the entrepreneurial leadership strategy approach in leading Nike’s growth-based differentiated strategy that is primarily dependent on product development and innovation and new market penetration.

2.1 Leadership strategy approach and organisation’s context and culture

2.1.1 The chosen organisation

The chosen organisation for this analysis is Nike, an American multinational corporation and an industry-leading global sports brand with one of the strongest customer bases (Pratap, 2020). Its mission statement is rooted in creativity, inspiration and innovation as indicated on its website (Nike, Inc, 2021). The company originated in 1964 under the name of Blue Ribbon Sports (BRS); in 1971, its name was then changed to Nike, Inc with the adoption of its current swoosh logo (Gregory, 2017). The brand design, develop and manufacture sports apparel and shoes to customers from both sexes in the age group of 14 to the late ’40s (Oberoi 2020).

Nike’s main focus is on creating innovative products through which its competitive advantage is established and preserved. It also seeks to identify new market penetration opportunities to further expand and grow (Pratap, 2020). Thus, its business strategy is a Growth-based differentiated strategy to attain global expansion. Nike also has a dedicated research lab through which the research team identifies and develops innovative products that appeal to customers; therefore, Nike has been well-known for its change to the industry’s standards (Gregory, 2017).

2.1.2 The chosen leadership strategy

As stated by Pasmore (2014), a leadership strategy outlines the skills required and the individual and collective behaviours that should be adopted and implemented by a leader to attain organisational success. Such a strategy is crucial as it ensures that leaders have the required leadership talents (Pasmore, 2014). The chosen leadership strategy approach is the entrepreneurial approach. As defined by Roomi and Harrison (2011),  entrepreneurial leadership is “developing appropriate abilities with which to combine, exploit, and maintain the particular capabilities of entrepreneurial teams, especially balancing creativity, influence, a particular attitude to risk, and an ability to access scarce resources strategically” (p.29). Such an approach mixes between three leadership styles namely, team-oriented, value-based and transformational leadership (Roomi and Harrison, 2011) and consists of three primary components which are pro-activeness, innovativeness and risk-taking (Selvaraja and Pihie, 2017).

 

The leadership strategy approach could be described through three aspects; these are skills and behaviours, collective capabilities and leadership culture (Pasmore, 2014). Accordingly, the description of the entrepreneurial leadership strategy is as follows.

 

Behaviour, knowledge and skills

Entrepreneurial leaders are leaders who seek novel entrepreneurial opportunities that could be exploited given the available resources. They are capable of framing challenges, absorbing uncertainties, specifying limits, building commitment and clearing paths (Selvaraja and Pihie, 2017). With regards to the skills required, entrepreneurial leaders should have strong bargaining, coalition forming and assertiveness power (Roomi and Harrison, 2011). They are ambitious, visionary, inspirational, convincing and decisive (Selvaraja and Pihie, 2017). Nevertheless, they are also supportive, accommodating and nurturing when it comes to their conflict-handling capabilities  (Roomi and Harrison, 2011),

 

Collective capabilities

Entrepreneurial leaders are team-oriented i.e they value the participation and involvement of groups in the decision-making process through a decentralised management approach. Such an approach enhances collaboration and communication within the organisation leading to more efficient and sustainable operations (Roomi and Harrison, 2011). Also, they place great emphasis on developing and maintaining long-lasting relationships along the value chain of an organization through effective communication (Roomi and Harrison, 2011).

 

Leadership culture

Concerning the leader’s culture, entrepreneurial leaders value the development of a shared vision through which employees could emotionally link to and exploit the opportunities identified towards the organisation’s targets (Roomi and Harrison, 2011). Entrepreneurial leaders are risk-takers in nature which means that they support an inspirational environment where innovation and creativity are fostered leading an organisation to excel (Selvaraja and Pihie, 2017). Due to their continuously evolving nature, entrepreneurial leadership culture is a culture that supports continuous learning and development; thus, reinforcing a knowledge-acquisition based culture to seek perfection (Roomi and Harrison, 2011).

2.2 Justification of the chosen leadership strategy approach

Similar to business strategies, leadership strategies are primarily based on a thorough analysis of the organisation’s current situation, capabilities and future prospects (Pasmore, 2014). Accordingly, a leadership strategy is driven by the business strategy. As aforementioned, Nike’s business strategy is primarily focused on growth and expansion. Lockett et al., (2013) state that an organisation’s growth objectives could be realised through four processes namely, market penetration, innovation, new market development and new product development. However, it was evidenced that Nike is channelling its efforts towards market penetration and product innovation (Pratap, 2020). On that basis, the entrepreneurial leadership strategy was chosen as it supports the identification of market opportunities that would aid in attaining Nike’s growth objectives (Lockett et al., 2013).

 

The rationale for choosing an entrepreneurial leadership approach is that, in an era of evolving, free and highly competitive market, there has been a wide momentum to endorse leadership strategies that meet the demands of the knowledge era; an era that highly promotes innovation and leverages on new technologies (Uhl-Bien, Marion and McKelvey, 2007). Hence, proving the need to adopt and implement an entrepreneurial strategy due to the high competitiveness of the sports apparel market. Similarly, Alimo-Metcalfe and Alban-Metcalfe, (2005) shed light on a new leadership paradigm where five main attributes of modern leaders were identified. These include networking, focusing on team effort, building a shared vision, supporting a developmental culture and facilitating change. From the aforementioned description of the chosen leadership approach, it is apparent such traits are all possessed by entrepreneurial leaders; indicating that through such an approach, Nike would benefit from modern leadership strategy besides ensuring leadership attributes that lead to its growth aims. Moreover, entrepreneurial leaders are capable of maintaining the core competencies of teams within an organisation; thus, aspiring employees towards opportunity identification, innovation and creativity (Roomi and Harrison, 2011). These are the main pillars upon which Nike’s differentiation and growth strategy are based to penetrate new markets and create a competitive advantage through differentiated products which indicate that the chosen approach perfectly aligns with the predetermined business strategy.

2.3 Bring value and collaboration to the organisation

The entrepreneurial leadership strategy emphasises the fact that failures are inevitable; therefore, such a strategy encourages setting and maintaining rules that would aid in coping with any disruptions or imbalances (Pasmore, 2014). In the highly competitive market that Nike is competing in, market penetration, creativity and innovation are the strongest pillars for attaining the growth objectives. Yet, it has been established that these pillars are often implemented in tandem with risk-taking. Therefore, such leadership would augment the resilience of an organisation (Pasmore, 2014) by enhancing its flexibility, robustness and ability to resume back beyond its normal operations after disruptions; leading to sustainable growth. This is further supported by the findings of Uhl-Bien, Marion and McKelvey, (2007) which revealed that the complexity leadership theory, which is also dependent on innovation and creativity, enhances the overall adaptability of businesses.

 

Also, the entrepreneurial approach enhances the opportunity identification capabilities of a business. As stated by Lockett et al. (2013), opportunity identification entails “identifying potential for “fit” between available resources (inside or outside of the firm) and market needs” (p.27). Therefore, the entrepreneurial approach would rethink the functionality of Nike’s technologies and other resources by recognising resource duality and the potential for combining complementary resources; an approach to opportunity identification that adds value to the organisation.

 

Moreover, such an approach supports continuous learning and improvement to augment the performance of the business (Roomi and Harrison, 2011). Uhl-Bien, Marion and McKelvey, (2007) has been advocating for the shift to a post-industrial leadership school that focuses on complexity science and knowledge-based environments. Through the development of skills and knowledge, the organisation could shift from a money-driven business model to a brain-driven organisation that acquires the know-how; a capability that could hardly be replicated by competitors. Thereby, enhancing the core competencies of Nike. The diversified knowledge base that the entrepreneurial approach supports is the cornerstone of the effective identification of opportunities leading to the organisation’s growth and prosperity (Lockett et al., 2013).

 

It has been established that brain-driven businesses place significant emphasis on knowledge acquisition which would further be supported by the entrepreneurial approach. However, this necessitates the establishment of effective network channels through which tacit knowledge and experiences could be transferred (Lockett et al., 2013); accordingly, such channels would aid Nike in reinforcing collaborative working relationships across different stakeholders.

 

Furthermore, in a huge multinational company such as Nike, collaboration across cross-functional teams and teams across borders is vital to successfully implement innovation to attain the desired expansion goals. This is due to the fact that the effective exploitation of the identified opportunities entails having empirical validation from multiple departments and individuals within an organisation through which novel ideas and opportunities are evaluated   (Lockett et al., 2013). The cross-functional collaboration that would be emphasised by the entrepreneurial approach would strengthen teamwork and effective communications (Pasmore, 2014) leading to a more collaborative approach to leadership.

3.1 Implementation, tools, and resources

In implementing the entrepreneurial leadership strategy, emphasis will be placed on processual leadership rather than leader-centred/ego-centred leadership. As described by Schweiger, Müller and Güttel, (2020), processual leadership is “A social interaction process, co-constructed by all involved actors, determined by emerging and constantly changing power relations” (p.418). On that basis, the implementation strategy will:

  1. Consider reciprocal influences
  2. Attempt to change perspectives whenever necessary
  3. Recognise the associated benefits of dissent
  4. Show interest in different points of view.

 

In doing so, multiple tools will be utilised. Denis, Langley and Rouleau, (2010) state that tools, besides a leader’s core competencies, are beneficial in securing compromises among multiple interests that drive organisations towards success; these include “ managerial tools such as models, techniques, rules, standards, numbers systems, control system, documents, or contractual techniques” (p.84). To start with, an implementation plan that details all implementation aspects such as team members, the tasks to be accomplished, implementation schedule, roles and responsibilities, allocated resources and the predetermined metrics for measuring success would be developed. The plan should also map out the desired outcomes, anticipated risks and ways to mitigate such risks  (Olsen, 2021).

 

Besides the implementation plan, a crucial aspect to be considered while implementing the entrepreneurial approach is to recognise the fact that such an approach would place the organisation in a continuous learning process and mode (Roomi and Harrison, 2011). This is based on the fact Nike should leverage new technologies, big data analytics and other innovative approaches to gain competitive advantage and achieve sustainable growth. Therefore, the GROW Model is an effective tool to be utilised while implementing the strategy. The model aids leaders in shifting into a more coach-based leading style where employees are inspired to find solutions rather than being directed or instructed on what they should perform (Ibarra and Scoular, 2019). In the case of Nike’s adoption of new technologies and techniques, a leader might not possess the required knowledge due to the novelty of such techniques; thus, emphasising the need for such an approach.

 

Another important aspect is to effectively manage the core competencies within an organisation. This is specifically important in the case of large organisations such as Nike where multiple information transfer channels exist. Therefore, an important tool that should be used is organisational network mapping. Social network mapping entails creating a visual map of the internal linkages within the organisation that would aid in providing a road map for the implementation of the new leadership approach; also, it would assist in diagnosing internal communication and decision making blockage (Scott, 2016). Data could be collected from internal staff, using surveys for example, and inputted into specialised software to generate the social network analysis of an organisation.

 

Furthermore, in managing implementation conflicts and problems, a polarity map tool would be used. Polarities in organisations are manifested through business units/departments versus the entire organisation. Thus, the efficient management of such polarities is vital “ to supplement either/or thinking with both/and thinking. Both combined will outperform either alone” (Johnson, 1998, p.5). Therefore, using the polarizing map tool would aid in capitalising on diversity without alienating the diverse groups, convert resistance to change into a resource for sustainability and provide stability amidst rapid change (Johnson, 1998). Finally, to facilitate progress tracking, progress tracking tools that aid in setting milestones to be achieved in specific time frames would also be used during implementation (Olsen, 2021).

 

Besides time, financial, technical, and human capital resources, other forms of resources would be utilised as well. According to Tafvelin, Nielsen, von Thiele Schwarz and Stenling, (2019), resources are “things perceived by the individual to help attain his or her goals and are usually defined as “objects, personal characteristics, conditions, or energies that are valued in their own right” (p. 159). Hence, hardware and software tools, facilities, and additional external human resources or services are used during implementation. Furthermore, vigour, hope, self-efficacy, peer support and external supportive relationships are other resources that would be utilised to maintain motivation and high energy levels within the group.

3.2 Challenges and barriers

One of the most important challenges that would be encountered while implementing the entrepreneurial approach is the ability to integrate entrepreneurial ideas and opportunities at both the individual and organizational levels. This is since such integration would require the integration of new and existing knowledge (Lockett et al., 2013). However, this challenge could be overcome by maintaining social interactions and evaluating organisational routines to engage and involve different stakeholders which would be facilitated through the social network analysis tool.

 

Another challenge is attaining consensus on the leadership approach. As aforementioned, entrepreneurial leaders are strong advocates for innovation and creativity, an approach that is often associated with multiple risks. Thus, a major challenge that would emerge is the extent to which the tolerance to risks against the anticipated rewards could be effectively communicated to the different stakeholders (Roomi and Harrison, 2011). This may affect the acceptance towards the leader; thereby, destructing cohesion within an organisation (Lockett et al., 2013). However, self-awareness is the key to solving this issue. As stated by Castelli, (2016), “The practice of reflection is a process that requires critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Reflection causes us to examine the ideas and assumptions that shape our behaviour which leads to greater self-awareness.” (p.231). Accordingly, I would consider integrating reflective thinking and practice into my entrepreneurial leadership approach to “promote trust, connect work to the organization mission, build the confidence of the workforce, respect diverse cultures, and challenge beliefs and assumptions” (p.230).

 

Another barrier to the successful implementation of the entrepreneurial leadership approach is the ability to sustain entrepreneurial behaviours in the long run and preserve such behaviours from being disturbed (Lockett et al., 2013). This barrier sheds light on the significance of the leaders’ dynamic capabilities which is defined as “the ability to reconfigure a firm’s resources and routines in the manner envisioned and deemed appropriate by its principal decision-maker(s)” (p.26). Thus, the leader’s knowledge and competencies act as a basis to proactively reinforcing employees’ perceptions, willingness, and capabilities to drive change in a sustainable manner.

4.1 personal growth or professional development

De Haan, (2016) identified the leadership shadow, an emerging phenomenon that possesses multiple risk factors to top leaders. In the description, the author states that “leadership by nature creates a split between a gesture and a response, or between guidance and the ability to follow through” (p.509); which the author refers to as a leadership shadow. The risk factors imposed by the phenomenon include abuse of power, which emerges from the increased self-confidence and selfish tendencies, and not spending enough time to develop the effectiveness of employees leading to having toxic environments within organisations. Therefore, I would consider the author’s recommendations by:

  1. Accepting upward feedback from within the organisation.
  2. Having a balanced leadership practice using a decentralised approach.
  3. Engaging in self-reflection that is honest, constructive and active.

 

It was further evidenced that the literature concerning entrepreneurial leadership approaches is primarily focused on personal qualities and organizational leadership capabilities; yet, little attention has been given to the development of others. As stated by Alimo-Metcalfe and Alban-Metcalfe, (2005), modern leaders should be able to demonstrate genuine concern for other individuals by showing interest in staff, valuing and praising their contributions, and promoting coaching and mentoring within an organisation. On that basis, I would consider incorporating the socialised leadership style. Poulin, Hackman and Barbarasa-Mihai, (2007) define socialised leadership as leaders who“ seek out principles, and people, to make their lives and the lives of others better, fairer, and more workable.” (315). Thus, they are leaders who can balance the organisation’s structure, system and identity. On that basis, I would ensure the continuous support and empowerment of employees, provide them with incentives, support ethical policies and maintain their dignity by ensuring a fair and just working environment.

To conclude, this report sought to provide an analysis of the entrepreneurial leadership strategy approach to support Nike in attaining its growth and expansion objectives. The rationale for choosing such an approach is primarily based on the fact that the entrepreneurial leader’s behaviours, skills, collective capabilities and culture are perfectly aligned with Nike’s differentiated growth-based strategy. Moreover, the approach would facilitate collaborative leadership which is vital for a multinational organisation such as Nike. The report presented multiple tools and models that would be used during the implementation of the strategy along with the required resources such as funds, technologies, software, etc. The report also identified and analysed the multiple challenges that might be encountered during the implementation process. These include difficulties in obtaining general consensus, communicating risk tolerance to stakeholders and integrating entrepreneurial ideas at individual and organisational levels. Finally, the report presented opportunities for self-growth and development which included being cautious from the leadership shadow phenomenon and balancing personal qualities, organizational leadership capabilities and the development of employees within the organisation.

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