War and pandemic. Climate change and clean water. Poverty and hunger. Racial and gender inequality.
The endless list of complex challenges facing humanity today is daunting. In addition, many are persistent problems that have plagued the planet for decades or longer. The real problem isn’t the problems themselves, says Babson College’s Scott Taylor. No, it takes leadership to solve them.
“One thing that keeps me up at night, as a leadership professional, is why do we have these longstanding problems and challenges in the world?” says Taylor, professor of organizational behavior and the Arthur M. Blank Endowed Chair in Values-Based Leadership at Babson. “We are unable to bring together the individuals, resources, knowledge, capabilities and influence to work on these very complex issues. There has been a breakdown in leadership, so there is a great need.”
It is the entrenched models of leadership — not the leaders themselves, Taylor says — that are failing society. There is an urgent need for a new leadership model. Babson’s research, led by Taylor, created that model.
To solve the most puzzling problems, he says, the world needs entrepreneurial leadership.
A revolutionary model
The first definitions of entrepreneurial leadership date back to the early 1990s, and at the forefront of developing the concept were Babson faculty such as Danna Greenberg, the Walter H. Carpenter Professor of Organizational Behavior whose book, The new entrepreneurial leader: developing leaders who shape social and economic opportunitiesit was published in 2011. Since then, entrepreneurial leadership has become popular, especially as a professional competency and academic pursuit.
As the longtime #1 school for entrepreneurship education, Babson College is perfectly positioned to take the lead in entrepreneurial leadership. With a $50 million donation from Arthur M. Blank ’63, H’98 in 2019, Babson launched The Arthur M. Blank School for Entrepreneurial Leadership.
“This is our DNA. We live it, we practice it, we learn it,” says Taylor. “We’re uniquely qualified because of that history, those connections, those relationships, but I think there’s another part of it: We want to be able to help the world solve these complex issues.”
At Babson’s Blank School, Taylor led the extensive work of his Babson colleagues to research and advance entrepreneurial leadership, which is taking a major leap forward this year. Taylor will present Blank School research this summer at the Academy of Management Annual Meeting, the premier conference for management and organization scholars. Also, the team’s academic work on entrepreneurial leadership will soon be submitted to a top academic journal.
Most notably, Babson’s Blank School research created the first academic model to explain entrepreneurial leadership. Existing definitions are primarily rooted in either entrepreneurship or leadership. Babson’s model, however, aims to expand and clarify the definition by integrating the two fields and incorporating neuroscience in revolutionary ways.
In layman’s terms, Taylor describes entrepreneurial leadership as “the ability to help people in an influential way to have an increased capacity to recognize and exploit entrepreneurial opportunities”.
“We’re not just talking about jobs here,” Taylor says. “We’re talking about solving complex problems, establishing sustainable organizations that impact the environment, the economy and society.”
Putting people first
The traditional view of leadership often relies on a single heroic figure – a commanding leader who directs followers towards a common goal. And existing definitions of entrepreneurial leadership borrow from “transformational leadership,” which focuses on leaders who are capable of changing a social system or group of people in some way.
“But that foundation of transformational leadership that entrepreneurial leadership is built on is a little shaky right now,” says Taylor. What is missing are relationships between people. Babson’s model of entrepreneurial leadership focuses on the critical dynamics of relationships, including the exploration of human motivation. “Science has helped us understand why people do what they do and what enables effective performance at the individual, team or organizational level.”
To begin with, entrepreneurial leaders must have inner clarity. Confidently guided by their values and beliefs, they are better able to focus externally on others. “Our model explores how this happens from a motivational, dynamic standpoint,” says Taylor.
“By developing entrepreneurial leaders, measuring their capabilities and impact, we will be more intentional and effective in promoting entrepreneurial thought and action® in ways I don’t think we could have dreamed of doing a few years ago.” I think what we’re going to see is going to be extraordinary.”
Scott Taylor, Arthur M. Blank Endowed Chair in Values-Based Leadership
Successful entrepreneurial leaders must also demonstrate and cultivate empathy among others. Recent research shows that the empathic network in the brain is closely related to innovation, creativity and prosocial behavior. However, when the empathic network is activated, the analytical network of the brain is suppressed, and vice versa.
“I believe that entrepreneurial leaders move back and forth in those networks faster than other leaders, and we can increase that efficiency,” says Taylor. “That kind of knowledge should influence the way we think about leadership from a relational standpoint and what we need to do to inspire and enable others and engage their intrinsic motivation to perform.”
Developing entrepreneurial leaders
More than 40 years ago, Babson revolutionized entrepreneurship, introducing it as an academic discipline that can be learned and developed. Now, the College is poised to do the same for entrepreneurial leadership.
The necessary skills of entrepreneurial leaders, including cognitive flexibility and social competence, can also be developed and even measured, Taylor says. Babson’s model involves the process of increasing the capabilities of entrepreneurial leaders, increasing joint efforts to solve complex problems and create value.
READ MORE: Problem Solvers
The results could be dramatic.
“By developing entrepreneurial leaders, measuring their capabilities and impact, we will be more intentional and effective in promoting Entrepreneurial Thought and Action® in ways I don’t think we could have dreamed of doing a few years ago,” Taylor says. “I think what we’re going to see is going to be extraordinary.”
So, with such complex, persistent problems causing sleepless nights, can entrepreneurial leaders really change the world?
Taylor doesn’t hesitate to answer, “Absolutely.”
Posted in Campus and Community, Research and Insights
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