This research project aims at contributing to leadership, social capital, and entrepreneurship research by examining how entrepreneurial leadership and social capital contribute to resource assembly and consequent performance of small and medium-sized firms in Africa. The theoretical importance of this study to leadership, social capital, and entrepreneurship literature lies in demonstrating that entrepreneurs’ social capital is relevant in enabling entrepreneurs to secure resources. Resources, in turn, enhance firm performance; however, a key variable that has not been addressed in entrepreneurial research is the leadership ability of the entrepreneurs, which we surmise has an important role in enhancing their social capital. Moreover, the relationships in this may be further affected by the socio-economic context in which entrepreneurs operate. This study theoretically demonstrates the importance of entrepreneurial leadership as an antecedent of these established relationships, and will enable us to better understand the causal relationships between social capital, resource acquisition, and firm performance. Clearly, our study responds to the call by Bruton, Ahlstrom and Obloj (2008) for entrepreneurship research on emerging economies to focus not only on the strategy perspective but also on the social psychological and organizational behaviour perspective.
Recently, entrepreneurship scholars have intensified their effort in pointing out the importance of analyzing entrepreneurial leadership as a factor that may enhance and explain differences in firm performance and resource mobilization (Antonakis & Autio, 2006). The commonality between entrepreneurship and leadership is not being recognized for the first time; rather what is intriguing is the growing research effort to document this complementarity and to develop conceptual models to guide the analysis of this complementarity. The increasing focus on entrepreneurial leadership partly calls for a revisit of existing research models in order to determine how this new construct enhances resource mobilization and firm performance, particularly in resource-constrained environments. Social capital is one such model which has been used to investigate resource mobilization and firm performance. In our study, we will build and test a conceptual model for examining the role of entrepreneurial leadership and social capital in resource assembly and firm performance by small and medium-sized entrepreneurs in Kenya and Uganda, East Africa. This model will impact the scientific community in the sense that they will be able to use it to test the relationships in this study from other contexts and hence contribute to generalizing our study findings. Data will be gathered through surveys, and in-depth interviews of small and medium-sized enterprises in two countries in East Africa. In addition to conducting important scientific research, this project will contribute to training of East African graduate students and providing support to entrepreneurship policy and practice in East Africa.