The word ‘entrepreneur’ was coined back in the 18th century and has since entered our common understanding as ‘someone who risks things in order to purse an opportunity’. It is the backbone of the capitalist society and I associate it with Weber’s Protestant work ethic, although you can have an excellent work ethic and still be short of ideas and passion… and thus not an entrepreneur. Or at least not quite what we imagine an entrepreneur to be. Long live our images of the ‘ideal entrepreneurs’, such as Richard Branson, Anita Roddick, Bill Gates and so on.
However, Stanford Professor Kathleen M. Eisenhardt’s definition of ‘entrepreneurship’ is more interesting: it’s about ‘organising and strategising in disequillibrium’.
Which seems to me to be a pretty good definition of great global leadership. A nascent market, as Prof. Eisenhardt calls new, unproven markets, is very much like a new culture that you are trying to enter. It’s like being taken out of your nice warm bubble-bath and plunged somewhere in the middle of the ocean. In the dark. In a fog. You don’t know where you are, you can’t find your bearings, you can barely make out the sounds around you or know how to interpret them.
Entrepreneurship is all about finding that market, giving it shape and clearly demarcating it. Likewise, global leadership is about finding your limbs when plunged in that ocean, learning to navigate and starting to enjoy the swim.