New Urgency to Rename the Senior Executive Job Title

We just came across an interesting report on how CEO is the least popular job title in Silicon Valley. The article notes that as a result:

…some tech industry veterans say it’s time for a new approach to choosing CEOs. Forget the old idea of finding an older, well-known operations or sales executive to maximize earnings and soothe nervous shareholders. Too often, those experiments—Dell’s (DELL) Kevin Rollins, Apple’s (AAPL) John Sculley, Yahoo’s Carol Bartz—have failed.[…] Now Old Guard tech companies need to find risk-takers willing to bet big on new visions. That’s hard enough for entrepreneurs such as’s (AMZN) Jeff Bezos. It may be even harder at companies settling into middle age. “Somebody is going to have to take some risks, and bring in younger CEOs for a while” …

May we suggest that replacing the acronymn “CEO” with “Entrepreneurial Leader” may be more effective at attracting the right candidates to these established and fast-growing companies?

The New Beliefs of a Seasoned Business Leader

Raymond Gilmartin, former CEO of Merck and now a management professor, has developed an important list of “New Guiding Beliefs” for executives.

In our view, the list offers a number of practical ways to guide the process of embedding SEERS (Social, Environmental and Economic Responsibility, and Sustainability) into corporate decision making.

Here’s a quick overview of the 5 key bullets:

  • Shareholders benefit most when CEOs and boards maximize value for society and act as agents of society rather than shareholders.
  • The market favorably receives projects with long-term payoffs, particularly those in research and development. 
  • Purpose, meaning, and recognition are more powerful motivators than economic self-interest, and large external rewards can reduce intrinsic motivation.
  • Actions to address societal issues should be an integral part of strategy, and operations and should not be isolated as a separate activity under the heading of corporate social responsibility.
  • The most successful CEOs, on balance, are those who are developed inside the company but manage to retain an outside perspective.

You can read the commentary and discussion about the list by clicking here.

Entrepreneurial Leadership in the Middle East

There are few spots more in need of entrepreneurship–and entrepreneurial leadership–than the middle east. As we note in the book, the gap between “haves” and “have nots” is growing there at a rate that governments can’t (or won’t) address. Thus entrepreneurial leaders need to step into the fray to make opportunities where they can’t be found. This won’t always be easy, and models for success are few and far between.

But here’s one model worth a careful look: the Anatolians of Turkey. As Guy Sorman reports in City Journal:

Fueling this economic expansion is a new generation of entrepreneurs from Anatolia, in eastern Turkey. These businesspeople are conservative Muslims, but they aren’t extremists. The Anatolians are astonishing; no one can say for sure how they arrived on the scene as the dynamic engine of Turkish modernity. Ask an Anatolian entrepreneur about this success and he may credit a strong work ethic, combined with family values ingrained in the Muslim faith. Or he may mention the business traditions of Anatolia, a crossroads between Asia and Europe under the Ottoman Empire. Pamuk, a secular Turk, points to mundane factors like the Anatolians’ low labor costs and Turkey’s proximity to the vast European market: Turkey now exports 25 percent of its national production, up from 3 percent in 1980. Whatever the reason for the Anatolian breakthrough, Islam has not impeded it.

Will the Turkish model spread to nearby Arab countries?

Dirty Details on Becoming an Entrepreneurial Leader

We just posted our new piece on Harvard Business Review online looking at how entrepreneurial leader Jim Poss is making opportunity in the trash and sanitation business.

One of the key’s to his success is his ability to consider multiple types of value simultaneously. As we note:

 We use the acronym SEERS — which refers to social, environmental and economic responsibility, and sustainability — to capture the full scope of impacts that entrepreneurial leaders consider at once…Poss was able to simultaneously consider customer benefits (reduced costs for municipalities) and environmental impact (lower fuels emissions) without instinctively privileging one dimension over another.

You can read our full HBR post by clicking here.




Leading While Silent

Self and social awareness (SSA), the ability to think about your decisions and intentions as byproducts of your peculiar culture, is a key principle of entrepreneurial leadership. Though most of our research on SSA has tended to look at its verbal aspects: what leaders communicate about opportunity using words will be interpreted differently across cultures.

But here’s some interesting research presented at the 2011 International Association for Conflict Management Conference in Istanbul, that supports the relevance of SSA in non-verbal communication as well. 

…as much as 65 percent of social meaning is conveyed through nonverbal means, and other research has shown that these signals and cues — which are assumed by many people to be “automatic” and representative of true feelings — are often trusted over spoken words. The problem is that such signals can mean different things in different cultures and thus can be incorrectly understood, with unintended and sometimes disastrous results…Executives who learn how to “read” what the other side is really saying with body signals — and who are sensitive to how their own signals might be perceived — will be a step ahead in negotiating international deals.

You can read more details in Strategy and Business.

Prizewinners We Can Learn From

Practicing entrepreneurial leadership requires considering opportunities that aren’t just about revenue. In fact, we use the acronymn SEERS–Social, Environmental and Economic Responsibility, and Sustainabilty–to express spectrum of opportunities that entrepreneurial leaders often pursue simultaneously. 

Here are three new case studies from Fast Company that describe what such opportunities can look like in practice. Each is a winner of the eBay Foundation and Ashoka Changemakers Powering Economic Opportunity: Create A World That Works Competition, a contest asking entrants to offer up “the world’s most innovative market-based solutions that create economic opportunity and generate employment for disadvantaged populations.”

The Financially Self-Sufficient School Model

This entry, submitted by Fundacion Paraguaya, is a new model of technical and vocational education which “transforms the sons and daughters of chronically poor farmers into financially successful ‘rural entrepreneurs’ and its scaling up in 50 countries and/or 50 schools by 2017.” The Financially Self-Sufficient School model, already in operation at a school in Paraguay, teaches traditional high school subjects and allows students to run small-scale, on-campus agricultural enterprises, such as rural hotels and organic gardens. These on-campus enterprises cover many of the costs of running the school, which already generates $300,000 a year from the program. Now the foundation wants to scale up worldwide.

Nonprofit Innovation through Pay-for-Performance Funding

Submitted by Twin Cities RISE!, this organization’s mission is to train unemployed and under-employed men from communities of color with skills that can then be marketed to employers–and can score the unemployed jobs that pay at least $20,000 each year. TCR has formed a partnership with the state of Minnesota where the state pays the organization $9,000 each time the program places a graduate into a $20,000-a-year job, and it pays another $9,000 if the employee stays in the job for a year. The reason: TCR has demonstrated that an employed graduate has $31,000 of Net Present Value to taxpayers.

Mobile Microfranchising in Indonesia

The Grameen Foundation’s project is to offer a mobile marketplace, job search services, financial services, health and agriculture information, and small business mentoring to Indonesia’s poorest residents. Here’s how it works: An aspiring entrepreneur buys a pre-packaged kit, which contains a mobile phone and a microfinance loan. The entrepreneur then sells airtime minutes to neighbors. The opportunity allows the entrepreneurs (usually women) to double their income and gain valuable business skills. Grameen hopes to expand its network of over 7,500 entrepreneurs to 60,000 in the next three years.

We believe that each of the three cases above offers a benchmark for budding entrepreneurial leaders.

What Zombies Tell Us About Entrepreneurial Leadership

Here’s a great interview with Max Brooks, author of a two bestsellers on zombies. Brooks’ books have captured the imagination of huge numbers of teenage boys (and those that sometimes think like them).

As researchers of entrepreneurial leadership, we’ve been noticing how Brooks is increasingly developing new lucrative business ventures (such as TV shows and live lecture progams). But a key point is that all this innovation is based on his peculiar area of expertise and passion. He creates value from what he knows and who he is. Below is an excerpt from the interview:

How did you come up with such a curious niche as zombie expert?

I didn’t really set out to come up with a niche. I just was a zombie fan and wanted to answer my own questions. I used to wonder how I would survive a zombie attack and went looking for a book on how to do it. Nobody had written it, so I thought I’d just write it for myself, and it sat on the shelf for years before it ever got published. That was Zombie Survival Guide. When it came time to write another book, I wasn’t done with zombies. Every zombie story up until that point was a micro-story about an individual or group of humans and their little war. But to me, that isn’t enough, because zombies are macro-horror. They’re big. They’re global. No one was answering my questions about what a global zombie pandemic would look like, so that’s when I wrote World War Z.

Did you ever expect a zombie career would blow up like this?

God, no! Zombie books were going to be my passion projects, but certainly not pay the bills. I thought I was going to have to get a real job on a sitcom or something, and have my zombie books to remind myself I was still a writer at heart. I never thought I could actually pay my bills and write what I wanted.