Date of Award

12-2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Business Administration

Major Professor

Anne D. Smith

Committee Members

David Williams, Annette L. Randft, Lowell Gaertner

Abstract

In today’s organizational life, individuals wear many hats. These hats reflect the many roles and responsibilities individuals must take on throughout the course of their lives. These hats, or roles, help guide individuals toward what they should do in their organizations and how they should do it, and their corresponding role identities help define who they are. However, we know little about how and why role identity changes over time. Given that the research is clear that organizational members not only wear more hats in today’s challenging environment but that they also more frequently transition between these hats over time, understanding the processes through which role transitions occur over time is both timely and warranted. Using a multimethod qualitative approach in an entrepreneurial context, this study addresses how and why the role identities of organizational leaders change over time. My findings reveal that entrepreneurs follow one of three distinct identity paths that both influence, and are influenced by, firm growth. Most notably, I reveal the path of craft identity, which challenges the conventional wisdom regarding how firms grow and an entrepreneur’s role in the process. Ultimately, I discover that entrepreneurs possess a myriad of role identities that change as they progress with their firms.

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