Leading Employees Towards Entrepreneurial Mindset

By Dr. K M Wong

The formula for employees to think holistically perhaps is Humanistic Entrepreneurialism

It is commonly known that an entrepreneurial mindset involves the thinking of working for ourselves rather than for others. Freedom is what an individual believes that motivates them to quit their job and embark on entrepreneurship. In general, entrepreneurship is perceived as setting up our own business, taking risks, and expecting profit as a reward. Thus, an entrepreneur is often defined as a business person, someone who has the passion to run a business, seeking wealth, and escaping from the ever stressful employment world.

Etymologically, the word ‘enterprise’ means “an undertaking.” Back into the 1800s when the word ‘entrepreneur’ was introduced, it refers to someone who undertakes or manages. In fact, the origin of the word did not indicate a business owner but a manager or a promoter. The understanding of the true meaning underlying the word ‘entrepreneur’ sparks the interest to challenge the common perception of entrepreneurship within the business domain by bringing back the true essence of entrepreneurship.

A recent study on what it takes to become an entrepreneur at KDU School of Business revealed several interesting findings that are in fact in line with the etymology of entrepreneur. Data were obtained from entrepreneurs within and beyond the country. Surprisingly, the key factors to be an effective entrepreneur are not the conventional or stereotyped thoughts of being passionate about something, let alone depend on the technical skills or business skills. While several characteristics such as risk taking, being passionate, ownership, wealth-driven, resilience, etc are seen among entrepreneurs, the primary group of characteristics of an effective entrepreneur is nothing more than Resourcefulness, Innovativeness, Enterprising and Perseverance.

Enterprising is something that an individual could learn through experience or a formal business education while innovativeness requires one to be open to new ideas, dare to challenge assumptions, and be able to find relevant supporting platforms to test out their innovation. However, resourcefulness and perseverance are traits that develop through the internal process of self-awareness and self-adjustment based on multiple hurdles and failures. It requires positive thinking (growth mindset) that turns problems into opportunities.

In realising these traits, the definition of ‘entrepreneur’ is relevant not only for those who own business(es) but also employees who are able to think of their employer’s business as if their own business. In other words, it doesn’t take someone to be an entrepreneur to possess the entrepreneurial mindset, but just anyone instead. This may explain why certain employees are willing to work whole-heartedly for an organisation while some aren’t. We often believe that the carrot and stick that motivates the employees to do so. Perhaps, the individual themselves, who has the entrepreneurial mindset that allows them to think holistically and on behalf of the organisation instead of thinking just as an employee, which portrays ‘silo’ thinking.

While we believe that employees should have leadership capabilities as much as they could, their possession of an entrepreneurial mindset ensures their progress and growth as an individual, and eventually the organisation as a whole. In any organisation, employees’ work performance should not entirely be dependent on the external factors (i.e. pay, promotion, conducive working environment, etc.), but their self-governance capability, their growth mindset, and their ability to recalibrate themselves with the organisation as one entity – the concept of Oneness and therefore allows them to see the big picture – the concept of Wholeness.

In nurturing the entrepreneurial mindset (i.e. Entrepreneurialism) internally, self-reflection and self-awareness counts! An individual needs to shift the silo thinking (i.e. solely building his/her own desired outcomes) to a broader society-driven thinking (i.e. building a decision that benefits the majority). When an individual is too wealth-driven and self-centred, they often forgot about the human side in carrying out their duty. Instead of looking into themselves, the individual starts to look into the easiest way out to their problems, blaming others. Hence own profitability overshadows the priority to benefit the organisation holistically.

The incorporation of human element into the concept of entrepreneurship provides the platform to the ideology of Humanistic Entrepreneurialism. The idea is not only intent to cultivate superb entrepreneurial traits of an individual, but to nurture them into full-grown wholesome persons with a set of self-developed qualities that is utmost required by the global society in this modern era. Perhaps this is a better formula to inculcate employees to think holistically and able to recognise the meaning of their existence, redefine the meaning of employability and recreate the meaning of opportunity that best meets their personal objectives.

Dr Brian K M Wong ([email protected]) is a marketing and business enthusiast based in Kuala Lumpur. His experience is in both academia and the industry. He has developed his expertise within the areas of marketing, strategy, management, and entrepreneurship.

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