Department of Management


Date of this Version



Published in The Leadership Quarterly 17:3 (June 2006; special issue on “Leadership in Team-Based Organizations”), pp. 217–231; doi:10.1016/j.leaqua.2006.02.002 Copyright © 2006 Elsevier Inc. Used by permission.


The current study investigated the relative influence of vertical versus shared leadership within new venture top management teams on the performance of startups using two different samples. Vertical leadership stems from an appointed or formal leader of a team (e.g., the CEO), whereas shared leadership is a form of distributed leadership stemming from within a team. Transformational, transactional, empowering, and directive dimensions of both vertical and shared leadership were examined. New venture performance was considered in terms of revenue growth and employee growth. The first sample was comprised of 66 top management teams of firms drawn from Inc. Magazine’s annual list of America’s 500 fastest growing startups. The seconded sample consisted of 154 top management teams of startups randomly drawn from Dun and Bradstreet, which compiles the most extensive database available for identifying relatively young American-based ventures. Both vertical and shared leadership were found to be highly significant predictors of new venture performance. Further, hierarchical regression analysis found the shared leadership variables to account for a significant amount of variance in new venture performance beyond the vertical leadership variables. These results were consistent across both samples, thus providing robust evidence for the value of shared leadership, in addition to the more traditional concept of vertical leadership.