Are you an entrepreneurial leader?
Over the course of the last year, I and my Nicolet College colleagues, in partnership with UW-Stevens Point/Treehaven, have been working on the curriculum development for an Entrepreneurial Leadership Program. Throughout this evolutionary process, the question kept arising as to how we are actually defining the term “entrepreneurial leader.”
According to Wikipedia, “Entrepreneurial leadership is organizing a group of people to achieve a common goal using proactive entrepreneurial behavior by optimizing a risk, innovating to take advantage of opportunities, taking personal responsibility and managing change within a dynamic environment for the benefit of the organization.” (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entrepreneurial_leadership). In other words, it is using the skills associated with successful individual entrepreneurs and applying those skills within an existing environment of a larger organization. This is often how one would define an “intrapreneur.”
Entrepreneurial leadership, however, is not one and the same as entrepreneurship; rather, it is a new model of leadership. Entrepreneurs, and the specific discipline of entrepreneurship, are often focused on new venture creation. Entrepreneurial leaders, on the other hand, also pursue opportunities outside of new start-up ventures. In the book The New Entrepreneurial Leader: Developing Leaders Who Shape Social and Economic Opportunity by Dana Greenberg, Kate McKone-Sweet and James Wilson, the authors define entrepreneurial leadership in a simplistic way, stating that “Entrepreneurial leaders work in established organizations, introducing new products and processes and leading expansion opportunities. Entrepreneurial leaders work in social ventures, tackling societal problems that others have ignored, often driven by their desire to consider how to simultaneously create social, environmental, and economic opportunities. They are undiscouraged by lack of resources or high levels of uncertainty; rather, they tackle these situations by taking action and experimenting with new solutions to old problems.”
The character traits of the entrepreneurial leader nearly mirror those of an entrepreneur as they most often exhibit a majority of the following: drive and energy, high initiative, personal responsibility, self-confidence, internal locus of control, tolerance of ambiguity, low fear of failure, moderate risk-taking, long-term commitment, continuous problem solving, self-imposed standards, clear sets of goals and self-reflection.
As part of the development of the Entrepreneurial Leadership Program that included the contributions of Corky McReynolds, PhD, CPF, director and professor at UWSP College of Natural Resources – Treehaven, five key attributes were identified. To begin with, the entrepreneurial leader, through perseverance, demonstrates a passion for the purpose. They have a strong belief in what they do and are able to find balance between creativity and need for their organizations, clearly understanding their role toward the greater purpose of the organization as a whole.
Secondly, the entrepreneurial leader exhibits a genuine passion and concern for the people within their organization. They work toward sustaining and maintaining a positive culture within the workplace, encouraging others to be effective in their jobs. They know they cannot do it all by themselves and thereby train and delegate appropriate tasks when necessary.
The entrepreneurial leader promotes “living is learning,” possessing the ability to transfer experiences and learning into the workplace. With a risk-taking character trait, they regularly challenge themselves and the organization, seeking new learning experiences that will help develop their role as a leader and engage in reflective thinking about their leadership role.
An entrepreneurial leader embraces the idea that vision is vital. They believe that their role as leader is to communicate but not necessarily create the organization’s vision. To attain the vision requires a shared responsibility, and teamwork and vision can only be achieved through good organization. The entrepreneurial leader believes his or her role is to focus on higher level tasks to reach the organization’s vision.
Finally, an entrepreneurial leader demonstrates a genuine care for the community. Entrepreneurial leadership is as much about community as it is about the organization that the leader serves. They believe that participation in growing the community will help grow the organization and that their organization benefits by being part of a vital community. And, serving as a community leader is simply the “right thing to do.”
And so, are you an entrepreneurial leader? If you are interested in learning more about the Entrepreneurial Leadership Program and when it is being offered, please feel free to contact me at [email protected] or you can call me at (715) 365-4492 or (800) 544-3039, ext. 4492.
A former business owner herself and graduate of the Urban Hope Entrepreneur program out of Green Bay, Michelle Madl-Soehren is currently the business development coordinator for Nicolet Area Technical College, where she assists and coaches new and existing entrepreneurs and small business owners with business plan development, provides professional development workshops throughout the area and coordinates and teaches Nicolet College’s eSeed Entrepreneur Program. She holds a baccalaureate degree from Mount Mary College in behavioral science and a master’s in management and organizational behavior from Silver Lake College. Madl-Soehren is also the current president of Northwoods Women in Business and past president of the Northwoods Entrepreneurs Club, and sits on the state advisory board for the Small Business Development Centers. She may be contacted at [email protected] or (715) 365-4492.