Is Entrepreneurship the new Leadership?

Written by Veronique Rapetti, JCCFB President and NEF Learning Director, for the New Entrepreneurs Foundation Blog.

I don’t know if, like me, you have noticed a proliferation of articles about the rise of entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship programmes, start-ups being launched and looking for funding, new accelerators and incubators, University Enterprise programmes and also a growing trend of large corporations creating their own incubators and working with entrepreneurs, such as Deloitte, Barclays and Telefonica to name a few. So why is entrepreneurship getting so much more press coverage nowadays? Why are large corporates looking at teaming up with entrepreneurs and bringing into their organisation entrepreneurial talents? Are we witnessing a shift in the way the economy and organisations want to be managed and grow? Is the traditional leadership model being challenged?

To understand the increased connection between entrepreneurship and leadership, let’s define some of the key skills entrepreneurs need to demonstrate. In no particular order:
– Vision/commercial acumen: able to spot opportunities in crowded markets and understand the competitive nature of business
– Risk taking: able to go outside owns comfort zone and take actions
– Resilience: able to persevere in the face of obstacles, learn from and accept failure
– Change management: can adapt, be flexible and comfortable with change and innovation
– Communication: can communicate clearly and effectively
– Analytical skills: able to think analytically both with numerical and verbal information
– People skills: able to understand other people strengths to build the best teams

To some extent, the above skills are very similar to the one we look for in a leader…aren’t they?

In the UK, the government is also pushing the entrepreneurship agenda to help support skills and ultimately innovation and growth in the long term. Recently the All-party Parliamentary Group for Micro Businesses published a report on “An Education System fit for an Entrepreneur”, looking at the effectiveness of the UK education system in supporting entrepreneurs from the age of 4 to 44 and beyond.

So, faced with the new challenges the economic downturn unveiled, we can easily understand how and why entrepreneurship skills are seen as the drivers for change, innovation and growth. We can appreciate the impact of the economic woes to the way we perceive entrepreneurs and how it reinforce the idea that entrepreneurial skills have a role to play in the drive for growth.

Is that why learning and development programmes such as those offered by the New Entrepreneurs Foundation play a key role in the new economy?  We are recognising that in order to transform UK businesses, we need to develop not only leaders but entrepreneurial leaders!