What is an entrepreneur, anyway?
My favorite definition is the one championed by the Harvard Business School, and originally formulated by Harvard professor, Howard Stevenson:
Entrepreneurship is the [relentless] pursuit of opportunity beyond resources controlled.
I love this definition because it puts entrepreneurship in a broader and more appropriate context. It wrests the term from the hands of the wonks and the quirky denizens of never-never land (aka Silicon Valley) and puts it back where it belongs—in your hands and mine!
Entrepreneurship is decidedly not about a bunch of geniuses who start a company from scratch, wrangle a truckload of venture capital and then go from zero to a gazillion in revenue, in a mere 18 months, with a team of just 7 people.
Entrepreneurship is actually a way of leading, not merely about starting a company. This new and improved definition points to three essential functions (skills?) required of leaders everywhere:
- Challenging the status quo (How can we serve customers better? or What new set of customers can we serve?)
- Prioritizing the ‘problem’ we need to solve right now based on a coherent strategy.
- Executing a plan to meet the challenge.
Isn’t that what leaders do—formulate a vision and take disciplined action to challenge the status quo?
When we look at entrepreneurship through this lens, we start to understand that this is not the vital work of the wunderkinder, whom we marvel at from the sidelines. No, it’s OUR work and it’s the way we ensure that we stay competitive in the job market and that our organizations, likewise, remain strong and relevant in a hectic and hyper competitive marketplace.
It becomes an everyday choice to lead or not to lead.
You can choose to become an entrepreneurial leader; to take responsibility and expand your power and influence; to pursue new opportunities beyond the resources you currently control. And you can exercise this choice by starting a company or by staying where you are and challenging the status quo from within.
And it helps to remember that leaders aren’t born, they’re made, and that you don’t need permission to get started, or to wait to be picked. You can pick yourself!