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Leadership, Transformation and Trust: The Business of Entrepreneurship

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…refresh your knowledge on leadership and trust based on chapter 11 of your textbook.  Take special notice of leadership traits, the behavioural theories of leadership, contemporary issues in leadership, and elements of trust in leadership.  Then read this article about iAccelerate, a start-up accelerator promoting equality of women entrepreneurs above and beyond its equivalents.

So, to summarise…

Start-ups may be the answer to the worldwide problem of rising percentage of educated, unemployed university graduates.  If there is no job for you out there, it’s probably because you need to invent it!  But as you can imagine, successfully growing a start-up is not the most certain thing one can do, to put it lightly.  In fact, there’s a good chance, 90% chance, that a start-up will fail.

But establishing a successful start-up is a business in its own right, and there are companies out there (which are, in an ironic way, also start-ups), which support start-ups.  They are called “accelerators”, and that’s what they do: they accelerate the start-up from its early stages and help it develop into a fully grown business. 

If you are still here reading this post, and haven’t run off to the nearest accelerator to pitch your idea, let me tell you a little bit about iAccelerate, the Illawarra accelerator.  iAccelerate was formed to address this problem of over-education and underemployment in the Illawarra region of NSW, which has one of the highest numbers of IT graduates in the country, and the highest rates of youth unemployment in the state.  Those IT graduates just move away once they are done, and the region remains underdeveloped.  With iAccelerate, there was hope that they will stick around, innovate, and create jobs for others – in the region.  For this reason, iAccelerate is different to other accelerators: a business starting with them has to have a major business component in the Illawarra.

The CEO of iAccelerate, Dr. Elizabeth Eastland, clearly prioritises her relationships with the accelerator’s residents.  She knows their names, family situation, professional background, strengths, and views.  She makes sure that she spends time, in every opportunity she gets, talking to them, learning more about them, and encouraging them to realise their passions.

This dedication is not limited to the residents only.  On networking events where potential future residents get exposed to the accelerator, its operations, and its services, she circles around and makes connections with those people too.  This development of personal relationships makes it easier for residents of the accelerator, and for those considering to become residents, helps boost the confidence of each of them – that they are important, valued, and have somewhere to turn to, if they need help.

The article describes another issue on Dr. Eastland’s agenda – gender equality.  In the start-up world, there is a clear inequality, with as many as 22% female co-founders in Australia.  In iAccelerate, however, nearly half of the start-up companies have female co-founders.  This is not achieved by biasing the intake process, but in other ways, as described.  Some effective ways have been facilitating events open to the community and the typical intake crowd, which is postgraduates from the university of Wollongong, having female entrepreneurs’ breakfast events (which are open to men, but feature a female guest speaker), and scholarships for female entrepreneurs.

Dr. Eastland also discloses strategies which were tried by iAccelerate, and were not found effective: gender balance in the selection panel, and female representation in promotional images.  These things didn’t seem to help transform women’s views of entrepreneurship, or of themselves.  The disclosure of these failures to achiever a cause can help other accelerators increase female presence in their co-founders, showing Eastland’s commitment to this cause just as much as to the success of her own organisation.

Some issues to notice and pay particular attention to here are…

  • Traits associated with leadership
  • Leadership styles: centre, orientation, managerial grid.
  • Path-goal model, transactional and transformational leadership
  • Credibility and trust

Consider the following questions for discussion…

  1. What kind of traits would expect a leader of start-up accelerators to have?  Why?
  2. What leadership style would you say the CEO of iAccelerate need, if they genuinely wanted to transform the Illawarra region? Why?
  3. How do the transactional/transformational leadership styles apply to iAccelerate’s CEO, who wants to boost the numbers of female executives in their firms?
  4. How would you assess the leaders’ credibility in general?  How would you assess their credibility on issues like diversity and improvements to the region?
  5. If you were a CEO who was genuinely committed to increase gender balance among your residents, and develop the region of operation, how would you develop the trust of your employees?

Want to learn more about entrepreneurship?  iAccelerate would love to help, and also, to learn about your views.  If you send your answers to the questions above to iAccelerate’s webpage, you can come in for free to any other their lectures of your choice, for free! 

And who knows, you may be the one to start the next Australian success story!

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