“The entrepreneur’s world is becoming everybody’s world,” is the big idea in the latest book of Joseph Badaracco (2013, p. 7) about responsible leadership. It resonates intuitively with two evolutions in the economic landscape: the wave of start ups and free agents and the transformation of big organisations into clusters of different mini-enterprises. As a consequence: “the venerable leader/manager distinction deserves a prominent display case in the museum of management thinking” (p. 124).
So what lessons to draw from entrepreneurship? Badaracco interviewed dozens of experts in entrepreneurship and succesful entrepreneurs and formulates the following key ideas.
1. The first responsibility is intellectual. Leaders need intellectual honesty to see the world as it is. They work hard to develop a deep, careful, analytical, data-driven understanding on the driving forces shaping markets, economies and societies. They acknowledge the elephant in the room.
2. The old system of vertical accountability is replaced by a horizontal, customized set of commitments with stakeholders. It’s no longer about blocking and managing competitive pressure, but about forging & strengthening commitments & relations.
3. Decision making is no longer “once-and-for-all” but an unending series of small steps aiming at a larger, broad objective. Bold strategic decision making gives way to responsible, intensily committed orchestration & pragmatism. This demands a lot of faith, humility and restraint.
4. Core values are the binding power of entrepreneurial organisations. These are typically established by fostering meaningful projects and vigilance about clear lines that can not be crossed, as e.g. Google’s “do no evil”.
5. There are no longer familiar superstructures to fit in. Leaders create organizations and simultaneously create themselves. Leadership is a struggle that helps leaders to understand who they are and to become what they hope to be.
Badaracco sketches a clear challenge for the people-formerly-known-as-manager. Their islands of strategic planning and management control are swamped by market relationships. Their role is no longer long term stability, but creative destruction. A great deal of their work becomes highly transactional as shepherds of evolving commitments in networks of relations. They move carefully, patiently and analytically. They turn their companies into platforms of constant reconfiguration of modules and activities. They are driven by core values and see struggle as a vital part of humanity.
Badaracco, J. (2013). The good struggle. Responsible leadership in an unforgiving world. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press