Close your eyes and imagine the best leader you know.
Everyone has one: someone who was motivating, collaborative, and kept the team moving toward a common goal. Perhaps this person had the authority of being a traditional leader, a boss or coach, for example. Or, it could be a peer who stepped up during an important project and thrived despite uncertainty and ambiguity.
Chances are, part of what made this person so effective was that they possessed many qualities of an entrepreneurial leader.
This post is a look at the entrepreneurial characteristics of leadership, which make for a different way to steer and guide people including the general definition of entrepreneurial leadership. The best entrepreneurial leader is good at experimenting, learning, and iterating. Compare this skillset to a more traditional “analyze, then act” leadership approach, and the difference is clear. A conventional business leader might be great at assembling a puzzle when the picture is laid out to copy, while an entrepreneurial leader can dive in with no picture at all to start putting pieces together.
In a volatile and unpredictable world, these qualities of entrepreneurial leadership are essential.
Entrepreneurial leaders harness the power of relationships and put people first, and that enables them to take on and solve daunting challenges. “Entrepreneurial leadership is a mindset that focuses organizations on turning problems into opportunities that create economic and social value,” says Babson College President Stephen Spinelli Jr. MBA’92, PhD. There are many styles of entrepreneurial leadership, but at their core, entrepreneurial leaders maintain that people first mindset.
For Professor Jay Rao, entrepreneurial leadership goes hand in hand with a relentless optimism about the world. “Entrepreneurial leaders are not just risk managers; they are ambidextrous and are experts at navigating uncertainty,” says Rao, professor of operations management. “They have a positive outlook about the future, as they are always trying to improve things.”
Interested in improving your entrepreneurial skills? Read more about Babson’s entrepreneurial mindset in education.
Babson Professor Nan Langowitz says an openness to learning is one of the key qualities of entrepreneurial leadership. Like entrepreneurs, entrepreneurial leaders are made, not born. It’s a muscle that can be developed with time and practice.
“The best leaders are learners,” says Langowitz, professor of management. “The more you can develop a learning mentality, the better you’ll be at staying open to hearing new ideas, considering contrary points of view, and arriving at improved decisions.”
There are several critical qualities of entrepreneurial leadership:
That’s according to D.R. Widder MBA’99, Babson’s vice president of innovation. “Entrepreneurial leaders are able to lead from any position,” he says. “They know leadership doesn’t always come from the top, and it comes from action, not hierarchy. These people are high performance, collaborative problem solvers and are broadly needed in all industries.”
And today more than ever before, these entrepreneurial characteristics are needed in all sectors. As recent Babson graduate Benjamin Davis MS’22 put it, “Entrepreneurial leaders are the catalyst for the next wave of game changing ideas.”