Visionary entrepreneurial leadership in the aircraft industry: The Boeing Company legacy

Robert D'Intino, Trish Boyles, Christopher P. Neck, John R. Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Purpose: In the early twenty-first century organization scholars and managers face an economic outlook full of daunting challenges. With investors, workers, and other stakeholders distressed and hostile toward corporate executives and boards due to recent corporate scandals, the future for many industries and firms appears grim. In what ways can business history help corporate managers and new venture entrepreneurs overcome these leadership challenges? This paper seeks to uncover practices throughout the Boeing Company's management history that offer today's executives and board members numerous examples of industry vision and leadership. Design/methodology/approach: Visionary leadership theory is used to help understand Boeing's actions. A theory of visionary entrepreneurial leadership is proposed based on Boeing's history. Four specific cases of aircraft design and development decisions and actions are presented as examples of executive and board directors' vision and leadership. Findings: Boeing has served as the aircraft industry's innovator and leader for over nine decades by designing and building path-breaking airplanes when no other aircraft manufacturer would venture similar risks to their reputation and capital. Furthermore, Boeing executives and board directors have repeatedly made risky decisions that - if the prototype literately crashed and burned - would probably bankrupt the company. Management's vision was always on the next great airplane, never on individual image or personal wealth. Research limitations/implications: Future research directions are presented suggesting a focus on firm executives and boards of directors' decisions and how these decisions influence industry wide innovation and development. Originality/value: The paper analyses the leadership attributes of Boeing executives over the last nine decades.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-54
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Management History
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Visionary entrepreneurial leadership in the aircraft industry: The Boeing Company legacy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this