This article also appears on HeathMorrisonSuperintendent.org.
The entrepreneurial spirit is a central component of any successful business leader. However, the abilities to set and work towards goals, make sound decisions, and maintain a positive attitude in the face of adversity are indicative of great leadership in a much broader sense than business. Administrators and leaders in education should approach each day with an entrepreneurial spirit. Doing so will benefit the school community.
Taking a Unique Approach to Risks
As the executive leaders of schools, superintendents and administrators take on the additional task of risk management. And, in education, risks abound—financial concerns, issues of technological equity, and complications of student psychosocial development serve as everyday stressors for school administrators.
Entrepreneurs often take a nuanced approach to risks. There’s an understanding that risk can be positive or negative, depending on its outcome. As such, shying away from all risk limits growth potential and creates a culture of reluctance. They don’t accept the “easy no” when the “harder yes” may benefit the organization.
Education and adolescence are about trying new things, even if they don’t turn out as expected. It’s fitting, then, that a thorough understanding of risks be part of the K–12 leadership responsibility. That’s not to say leaders should enjoy taking risks; there are certainly times when slow and steady is better than fast and unpredictable. If the leader has a bold vision for ensuring ALL students are learning, new strategies must be deployed, and innovative approached to education must be considered.
Risk management requires creative thinking and situational awareness, which a successful leader should possess. Districts with more risk-averse administrators may be more stable, but will ultimately lack the necessary scalability that risk enables. As the saying goes, “ships are safest in the harbor, but that is not what ships are made for.” Schools have to continue to evolve to serve the needs of all of the students they serve.
Nurturing Future Entrepreneurs
As mentioned in my previous blog, superintendents must build communities for teachers, students, and families. Doing so encourages students to adopt a school community’s core values, including respect, honesty, and success. In the same sense, leaders who emphasize an entrepreneurial spirit can inspire teachers and students to experiment with their creativity and passion.
Freshstone Consulting Partner Tanvir Haque explored this topic in a 2017 article for Entrepreneur. He suggests that nurturing students “will give them confidence, but gives them the best possible chance of realizing their potential.” While Tanvir’s article primarily discusses classroom tactics for teachers, many of his ideas are applicable at the administrative level. Identifying and tending to the creativity, problem-solving, and leadership capabilities of everyone in the school community leads to idea-sharing and transparency. These are critical elements for any district.
While schools and businesses bear similarities and differences, both benefit from leadership that is equal parts entrepreneurial and eager. In this regard, superintendents and other administrators must understand the breadth and depth of their leadership responsibilities, and continue to promote a growth mindset for their organizations.