The Entrepreneur as Business Leader
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The Entrepreneur as Business Leader

Cognitive Leadership in the Firm

Silke Scheer

An entrepreneur who decides to found a firm and to hire employees has to tackle two central problems: their employees’ coordination and motivation. Drawing on findings from cognitive, social and organizational psychology, this book sheds new light on the relevance of bounded rationality and social learning in the process of leadership. Silke Scheer bridges some of the missing links that can be identified within the theory of cognitive leadership and demonstrates how its scope can be broadened by investigating group level processes, and how they can have an impact on the socialization of newcomers.
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Chapter 4: Group Processes: Work Group to Employee

Silke Scheer


In the theory of cognitive leadership it is not only the cognitive leader who influences her employees’ behavior by communication and frequent and intense personal contact. With regard to potential rivaling business conceptions or mental models as well as with regard to observational learning the theory of cognitive leadership also emphasizes the influence of fellow employees.1 Generally, work groups exert a normative influence on the behavior of individual group members, especially so if the work group’s cohesion is high (Seashore 1954; Cialdini and Trost 1998). Under most circumstances the informal socialization of a newcomer – as under the regime of cognitive leadership – increases the potential influence of the work group even further (Van Maanen 1978). Moreover, newcomers have been found to turn to their supervisors for technical, performance and role information yet to their coworkers for normative and social information (Morrison 1993b). However, the theory of cognitive leadership does not provide an elaboration on the influences stemming from a work group on a newcomer joining it. This chapter extends the theory’s scope in this direction. The group processes that can have an impact on an individual employee are discussed using the entering of a newly hired employee (the ‘newcomer’) into an established work group (consisting of ‘oldtimers’) as an example. These group processes are looked at from two angles: the newcomer’s and the work group’s perspective. For both perspectives what kind of information deemed important is analysed and how the respective piece of information is attained or conveyed. Furthermore, the work...

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