At Babson, we marry the concepts of entrepreneurship and leadership and speak of entrepreneurial leadership. Like entrepreneurs, entrepreneurial leaders can think creatively and act boldly to shape new opportunities. Like leaders, they can bring others along to act on solutions in their organizations. The Babson curriculum, co-curricular activities and culture focus on nurturing five major traits that we believe define entrepreneurial leadership.
First, entrepreneurial leaders can act in the face of uncertainty. Instead of resorting to collecting more data and analyzing more choices — particularly when dealing with “wicked problems” — entrepreneurial leaders take their cue from the way entrepreneurs deal with such situations. When faced with uncertainty, such as introducing new products in new markets, entrepreneurs choose to act, learn, and build. By acting, they create the data from which to learn and keep moving forward.
Second, entrepreneurial leaders are self-aware. They know themselves, the context in which they live and the values that guide their choices. This knowledge of “Who Am I” is about defining how an individual sees themselves in relation to others – that is, their social, economic and environmental responsibility. The entrepreneurial leader leads by values and creates a culture that results in a set of shared values within the community. Entrepreneurial leaders succeed because the basis of their actions stems from a set of beliefs and values that others can at least admire if not completely share.
Third, entrepreneurial leaders have an ability to enroll others. We use the word “enroll” rather than “sell” or “buy-in” deliberately. To sell or get buy-in means that the leader has the right answer and others have to be brought on board. Enrolling, however, is an invitation to co-create solutions. Enrolling requires leaders to lead without advocacy. Co-creation will not work if a leader wants to advocate for a predetermined solution. A genuine co-creation generates more choices and surfaces the trade-offs resulting from these choices. This makes the community understand that choices come with tradeoffs — giving up something in exchange for getting something. It is easier for a community to co-create or reach consensus if they understand the tradeoffs they are making.
Fourth, entrepreneurial leaders embrace surprises. They recognize that the path to a goal is seldom linear. Surprises are to be expected and dealing with them requires commitment to a general direction — a “soft” goal — that may change. Entrepreneurial leaders recognize that adaptability in the face of changing realities is sensible and following a predetermined path is not rational.
Finally, entrepreneurial leaders work with means at hand. They don’t wait or wish for resources they need; rather they craft solutions with the resources they have. There is often a mismatch between opportunities and the resources needed to exploit those opportunities. In such situations, opportunities must be shaped to match the resources available. Rather than say, “we don’t have the resources to exploit this opportunity”, entrepreneurial leaders ask, “how can I shape this opportunity to the resources that I do have?”