Fueling the fire: Examining identity centrality, affective interpersonal commitment and gender as drivers of entrepreneurial passion

Charles Y. Murnieks, Melissa S. Cardon, J Michael Haynie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


While work surrounding entrepreneurial passion is growing rapidly, this construct tends to be conceived as a potent force that emerges solely from inside individual entrepreneurs. Such a portrayal obscures important interindividual social considerations that may act to influence how passion develops and manifests among entrepreneurs. Among the most powerful of these social considerations is gender. Gender norms are prevalent throughout society and can influence the ways individuals view themselves as well as their roles as entrepreneurs. In this study, we use identity theory as a lens to integrate considerations of gender and self-construals into the development of entrepreneurial passion. Identity theory explicitly recognizes that consideration for other people's viewpoints and their reactions to oneself can influence motivation and self-construal in important ways. To analyze how these interindividual forces might impact entrepreneurial passion, we employ two constructs that bridge the gap between society and the self-concept: entrepreneurial identity centrality and affective interpersonal commitment. We integrate these constructs with the Dualistic Model of Passion (Vallerand, 2015; Vallerand et al., 2003) to develop a model explaining how social considerations may influence harmonious and obsessive passion among entrepreneurs. Harmonious entrepreneurial passion represents a passion that is engaged willingly, free of contingency or constraint, whereas obsessive entrepreneurial passion indicates compulsion to engage a given activity. In addition to looking at how these two types of passion develop, we analyze how these paths might differ for men versus women. Through a two-wave, lagged survey with 166 entrepreneurs, we find that social considerations do influence the development of entrepreneurial passion, and that these paths differ depending on the type of passion being analyzed. In particular, harmonious entrepreneurial passion is fueled by entrepreneurial identity centrality whereas obsessive entrepreneurial passion is driven by affective interpersonal commitment. More importantly, these relationships are both moderated by gender. Along both pathways, we find that these relationships are significant for male entrepreneurs, but not female entrepreneurs. This moderation is important because while extant passion research often controls for gender, it is rarely included as an instrumental variable. Our results demonstrate that the pathways that fuel entrepreneurial passion are not identical for men and women. Our study brings important nuance to the understanding of entrepreneurial passion and how it develops. First, we contribute to extant passion literature by demonstrating that whereas harmonious entrepreneurial passion is fueled by autonomous consideration of the importance of being an entrepreneur, obsessive entrepreneurial passion is driven by desires for maintaining relationships to important others. This indicates that social forces play an important role in driving internal passions. Second, we contribute to entrepreneurial passion research by demonstrating the importance of including gender as an instrumental variable. Our results show that men and women do not develop entrepreneurial passion in identical ways, and it is time to begin investigating what other affective or cognitive differences might manifest along gender dimensions. In summary, our study attempts to socialize the examination of entrepreneurial passion to better understand the important role that considerations for other people might play in fueling the fire of individual passions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Business Venturing
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018


  • Entrepreneurial passion
  • Gender
  • Harmonious passion
  • Identity
  • Obsessive passion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation

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