These notes summarize a talk to representatives of the Division of Student Affairs and the Order of Angells on the relationship of leadership and entrepreneurship. The previous posts are provided here, here and here.
My final post relates to the relationship of leadership and entrepreneurship. To me, they are deeply linked at the hip. Great entrepreneurs have to be great leaders – in fact, there are very good scholarly assessments supporting this. There are some aspects and skills of entrepreneurship that go beyond the typical leadership training.
Whether I would call leaders entrepreneurs relates very much more to their vision and purpose than it does to any other academic detail. So, again it’s about vocabulary.
The leader of a group that raises the funds and volunteers to go build a school in Brazil is a Social Entrepreneur in my book, and I suspect to many around the country. The same is true for almost any impact-driven student organization. They have leadership challenges identical or almost identical to social entrepreneurship ventures. A leader who builds an entity to take a Michigan invention and translate it for use in the entire world is an Entrepreneur in my book, needing to address all the entrepreneurial challenges a company has to address.
Thus, I don’t think the concepts are identical, but it would be a huge mistake to not recognize the substantial overlap in all of this. We would be a better campus, if we empowered our leaders with entrepreneurial visions and leadership aspirations and if we did so by focusing on student organizations.
To compare leadership and entrepreneurship, we may want to do so in four dimensions already addressed before (and following Cogliser and Bringham, Vecchio): Vision, Influence, Leading in the Context of Innovation/Creativity, and Planning.
Vision (followers/larger constituency)
Vision is the main component when inspiring followers toward exemplary performance or other goal-directed behavior as well as organizational performance.
Vision attributes (brevity, clarity, abstractness, challenge, future orientation, stability, and desirability or ability to inspire) and content (growth imagery) are related to new venture growth. Followers need to be motivated through involvement, participation, and a professionally meaningful mission.
A commonality across many of the various definitions of leadership is the ability to influence others toward a goal. Rational persuasion is widely used for both upward, lateral, and downward influence.
Entrepreneurs not only see opportunities (understand the ways and means), but are able to marshal resources to carry out their vision. Use of rational persuasion and inspirational appeals are likely to be effective when the request is legitimate and in line with the entrepreneur’s values and the constituencies’ needs.
Leading in the context of Innovation
Leading creative people requires technical expertise and creativity, employing a number of direct and indirect influence tactics.
Entrepreneurial leadership should involve idea generation, idea structuring, and idea promotion.
In complex, dynamic environments where people must coordinate their activities, planning represents a key influence on performance.
Entrepreneurs have a clear need for the mental awareness of future actions to anticipate potential reactions to strategic choices.
In summary, there is tremendous overlap of lessons of entrepreneurship and leadership.