This breed of leaders must be willing to invest in building the right knowledge and perspectives to work more effectively towards desired outcomes. Entrepreneurial leaders also leave room for experimentation, especially when it comes to solving acute problems that may take several years--and attempts--to resolve, making it a great learning experience.  Learning and growing through experimentation, therefore, is a critical part of an entrepreneurial leader’s journey.

The leader in the government department ushered in sweeping changes, taking risks while dealing with the bureaucracy. He persevered until his experimentation succeeded.

Shaping Strategic Entrepreneurship With the Right mindset        

When Jack Welch was named GE’s youngest CEO in 1981, his predecessor, Reginald Jones, prophetically said, “We need entrepreneurs who are willing to take well-considered business risks—and at the same time know how to work in harmony with a larger business entity.”   

The legendary Welch proved to be exactly the kind of leader Jones had envisioned: one with a unique entrepreneurial, growth mindset who transformed GE into one of the world’s most agile and admired companies. Later, Welch wrote in his autobiography that his goal was to create “a company filled with self-confident entrepreneurs who would face reality every day.”

The three mindsets identified in Prof Ramnarayan’s study reiterate the need for strong entrepreneurial leaders like Welch to usher in large-scale change interventions in incumbent firms. Yet, the researchers maintain, the identified mindsets are only some of the cognitive filters used by such leaders for the successful practice of strategic entrepreneurship. There could potentially be other mindsets, too, that influence leaders to act entrepreneurially.  

According to a HBR study, leaders can also exhibit a deliberative mindset that allows them to have a “heightened receptiveness” to process the information around them and act as optimally as possible. In this context, it’s critical to acknowledge renowned Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck’s groundbreaking idea of how a “growth mindset” can be leveraged by entrepreneurial leaders with the notion that abilities are not inborn but rather, can be cultivated or learnt over time. Leaders with a growth mindset invest time and effort to learn new skills and foster an environment that invites feedback, treats failure as an opportunity to learn and improve, and emphasises continual learning. They seize opportunities to improve their chances of success and stay motivated to lead in a positive and energised way.

Undoubtedly, today’s leaders have the onus of developing multiple mindsets to handle disruptions better. Like the examples cited in the research study, leaders in organisations of all stripes need to develop the right mindset—and attitude—to help their company weather a highly unpredictable business terrain. They need to prioritise mindset development to encourage diverse entrepreneurial behaviours to flourish within the company. Towards this end, they should initiate leadership training programmes to empower leaders to act as catalysts to drive positive change in a world where uncertainty prevails. Organisations that are serious about encouraging entrepreneurial thinking among senior managers should also build a robust entrepreneurial culture, where senior executives are provided the autonomy to think out-of-the-box and generate new ideas, as well as champion diverse perspectives.  

Despite the fear of constant disruption in the age of the pandemic, entrepreneurial leaders are still a rarity, if not an anomaly, even in the most innovation-focussed businesses. Senior leaders should view uncertainty as an opportunity to develop winning mindsets that will not only transform their organisation, but also themselves in the long run.

Featured Faculty

Ramnarayan Subramaniam