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Entrepreneurial Leaders for Corporations!

Entrepreneurship is seen as the answer to cope in the world of uncertainty, where rapid changes, growing global competition and unpredictable future require new ways of thinking and doing business. Also larger organizations need to become more entrepreneurial in order to enhance their performance, their ability for adaptation, and long-term survival.

To understand what is entrepreneurial leadership and how it can be developed, a Master’s thesis study at Aalto University was carried out as a part of the Entrepreneurship Exchange -program. The focus was on the participating corporate employees and how they experienced the EEX program, and the interviewees represent leaders, managers and directors who were self-selected to take part on the EEX program and wanted to learn more about entrepreneurship and startup business and in this way improve their leadership skills.

”… importance of practical strategy work”

The results indicated that participants were well-motivated, and their understanding of entrepreneurship and startup-life was deepened. Though it was not possible to identify learning outcomes in terms of particular skills, four clear themes arose from the interview data:

  • ‍working with limited resources,
  • ‍finding vision and direction in startup context – importance of practical strategy;
  • ‍the ambiguity of the advisory board work; and
  • supporting entrepreneurs’ leadership development.

These four themes were seen critical and triggering for reflective, higher level learning – meaning e.g. mindset and attitudes participants had.

Emergent framework of entrepreneurial leadership. Thesis p. 62.

In addition, an emerging framework of entrepreneurial leadership was introduced. The distinctive element, that separates “ordinary” leadership and entrepreneurial leadership is the entrepreneurial drive. This included pro-activity, innovativeness and risk-taking propensity as its elements. These were all considered as entrepreneurial qualities and part of the startup business. In addition, two other traits that considered important to entrepreneurship were courage and commitment, which have not emerged from the previous studies.

”What it takes to become an entrepreneurial leader?”

Further studies are needed, especially to understand what is the impact of EEX-experience on individual level and on an organizational level, as well as how entrepreneurial qualities are developed over time. In addition, it would be useful to have a set of tools to measure EEX-participants’ development. There are already signs that the experience also helps with the cross-cultural collaboration, which is very needed for increasing cross-border and cross-industry cooperation.

We will need more entrepreneurial leaders not only to drive their own organizations faster and more effective, but also to facilitate much wider collaboration with entrepreneurial innovators and startup companies.

Want to hear more? You can find the study HERE or you can contact me directly!

Reetta Koivuniemi

Project Manager

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