Entrepreneurial leadership

An increasingly complex business environment, where rapid changes in technology, competition, regulation and customer needs are the norm, has led to the search for new ways in which organisations can develop the right capabilities by which they can continuously anticipate the need for change.

In particular, effective entrepreneurial leadership is becoming increasingly important in ensuring that organisations adapt quickly to changes in today’s fast moving global economy.

But what is entrepreneurial leadership and what does it mean for those working with such an individual?

Various studies have shown entrepreneurial leadership is actually not one particular trait but actually a range of different personal attributes. These include the ability to anticipate, envision, maintain flexibility, think strategically and work with others to initiate changes that will create a viable future for the organisation.

However, the most critical defining factor is that good entrepreneurial leaders care about their organisations and their people but this is a difficult balancing act in ensuring that they can work closely with their staff whilst maintaining a leadership role.

For example, they need to be friendly, approachable and treat them like equals whilst remaining sufficiently distant to exert authority. They also ensure that their team are empowered to make decisions, are aware of the rewards and penalties of not achieving their objectives but also trust the leader’s judgement.

They do not impose their solutions on their teams or exclude or suppress potential. Rather they encourage their staff to be creative and to find their own solutions to problems.

Most importantly, the authority of entrepreneurial leaders does not come from the position they are given but from their expertise and values.

Having a fancy job title does not make someone a leader. Instead such individuals gain respect by leading through example, empowering their teams and nurturing leaders at all levels to ensure that the organisation is successful even when they are not around.

One of the key characteristics of such individuals is that they constantly challenge the status quo to see whether they are doing the right things or if what they are doing can be done better or cheaper.

Entrepreneurial leaders do not just identify the problem. Instead, they determine the solution and ensure that the required actions get implemented.  They also do not let the difficulty of making tough decisions deter them from doing that which will improve the organisation.

Such individuals set the tone and determine the values of the organisation they lead, being careful in ensuring that everything they do reflects the values they espouse and they encourage their people to examine their own values.

Most important of all, entrepreneurial leaders are focused on developing others around them and create a sense of urgency within the organisation and a mission worth achieving. They set goals that stretch people’s abilities, develop a spirit of teamwork and build confidence.

Even when there is no immediate problem, entrepreneurial leaders will often stir things up by breaking down established bureaucratic procedures or setting new stretch targets and goals.

As a result, success is usually not measured in quantitative terms but in less tangible ways such as when everyone in the organisation feels that they come to work excited and are proud to be associated with the organisation.

But how do entrepreneurial leaders achieve such results?

To facilitate this, the entrepreneurial leader needs to set the work climate, orchestrate the process of seeking and realising opportunities and become actively involved in identifying and developing new ideas.

However, there must also be an acceptance that not everything will work and that dealing properly with failure is as important as celebrating success of all entrepreneurial leaders, especially in identifying the reasons for failure, and ensuring there is learning from any errors.

The last twelve months has seen events around the world that we would never have envisaged this time last year and it is clear that there is a need for a new breed of entrepreneurial leader who is innovative, enthusiastic and can provide a new sense of direction in an uncertain world.

Therefore, the challenge for many organisations is to look beyond their previous methods  to recruit senior management and promote those individuals that can really make a difference quickly.

Certainly, Brexit and the challenges it brings to the public and private sector in the UK will require different approaches that may, in some instances, be unconventional but which will reap real rewards for those organisations led by entrepreneurial leaders.

Professor Dylan Jones-Evans was previously Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategy at Bristol Business School. He is now Assistant Pro-Vice Chancellor at University of South Wales Business School.