The role of entrepreneurial leadership in generating augmented SME growth
: an exploratory study

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK account for 99.9% of the business population and are acknowledged as the backbone of economic development (Gebauer et al., 2023; Eggers, 2020). The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) assert that SMEs also exhibit social growth and contribute significantly to societal prosperity and cohesion (OECD, 2019). However, there is a paucity of research into the socially enabling entrepreneurial leader and how this might influence economic development beyond that of profit, sales, and job creation (Pauceanu, 2021). Augmented growth encompasses the economic and social value that SMEs contribute to local economic development, societal prosperity, and wellbeing. Indeed, Kuckertz et al. (2023) and Davidsson and Wiklund (2013 p.56) suggest that “research studies focusing on value generated in small business growth beyond amounts would prove to be more meaningful”. This study therefore explores the role of entrepreneurial leadership in generating augmented growth in Northern Ireland SMEs.

Following a flexible, systematic literature review, a conceptual framework is presented to guide the research process and present the research contribution. Using a mixed methods explanatory sequential approach, 204 entrepreneurial leaders completed a questionnaire followed by 20 semi-structured interviews. The data was analysed using SPSS v26 and NVivo12.

The findings revealed evidence of entrepreneurial leadership generating augmented SME growth and uncovers entrepreneurial leadership as a purposeful enabler of augmented SME growth. As a tangible outcome, a strategic SME growth matrix proposes a relationship between entrepreneurial leadership and augmented SME growth, in a flourishing stakeholder driven, economic society. The research also highlights the inadequacy of singular economic measures of SME growth and subsequently proposes an augmented SME growth metric. SME growth policy incorporating a more holistic augmented measure could perhaps more effectively demonstrate the ‘real’ value SMEs contribute to societal prosperity and wellbeing. Implications for entrepreneurial leadership practice suggests a pragmatic integration of environmental and social sustainability innovations to generate augmented SME growth.
Date of AwardJun 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorHeather Farley (Supervisor) & Darryl Cummins (Supervisor)


  • Entrepreneurial leadership
  • SME growth
  • SME social impact

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