Dr Abby Robinson FRSA responds to the RSA ANZ blogging challenge, hosted in collaboration with 92Y as part of the Seven Days of Genius Festival - a global festival celebrating the power of new ideas. She asks how can entrepreneurs improve quality of life around the world?
It’s common knowledge that entrepreneurship is a difficult path. The very definition of an entrepreneur is someone who “assumes the risks of a business or enterprise” (Merriam-Webster). However, for me it’s about individuals who reject the status quo because they have a vision, a vision for something better. Otherwise what would be our long-term costs of accepting things as they are? Usually it means settling for something less than could be. We lose vision and therefore, don’t allow vision to flourish.
Successful entrepreneurs with vision improve the quality of life around the world by leading with courage, which takes trust and integrity--this in turn empowers others to lead with courage by ‘walking the talk’.
Being courageous is so easily said rather than practised. It’s about trust in yourself, trust amongst others, and trust in the universe. When you trust in yourself by truly knowing who you are, your values and commitments, and the solid ground on which you stand, you ultimately make better decisions and develop a capacity to connect authentically to others.
Integrity in turn, is when you act from that place of trust, your integrity becomes visible and that builds interpersonal trust amongst those around you.
Though there is no universal definition of courage in the context of entrepreneurship, in Shelly Francis’s book The Courage Way: Leading and Living with Integrity, Shelly definesfive courage types including physical, moral, social, innovative and collective courage. That is, healthy boundaries, speak truth to power, risk sharing your ideas, being creative and working together with integrity, commitment, and a capacity to cross lines of difference respectively.
Aristotle called courage the first virtue because it makes all of the other virtues possible. In addition to being the most important human virtue, it is the most important entrepreneurial virtue as well. If we think about it further, we would realise that other important entrepreneur concepts such as leadership and innovation diminish in the absence of courage. Leadership means making bold and often unpopular decisions which takes courage. Innovation involves creating new ideas that defy traditional though which also takes great courage.
Contrary to popular belief, courage can be taught and learnt as a skill, and almost everyone has the capacity to be courageous.
Ultimately our ideal goal as entrepreneurs is to empower others around us with courage by our behaviours or ‘walking the talk’. A successful entrepreneur will endeavour to build up those around them and be forward facing by being responsible for their success. Empowering others challenges us to finding innovative ways on creating the tools to make courageous decisions.
“People attain worth and dignity by the multitude of decisions they make from day to day. These decisions take courage’ Rollo May (Pyschologist).
Whatever our organizational circumstances are, whether we are a solo entrepreneur or one that runs a larger organization we need to set clarity with respect to the values of how we work, the priority of service above hierarchy, service above self and long-term good over short-term self-protection. When others observe first hand this is how we live, when they see us recognizing this in others and supporting this level of behaviour, they will have the courage to do the same.
The ripple effect of course is that successful entrepreneurs will continue to improve the quality of life around them and ultimately around the world by creating satellites of empowered individuals who lead with courage based on trust and integrity.
Abby is the Founder and Director of Innov8ingIntelligence and her aim is to inspire our youngest generations to realise their authenticity and potential as leaders within themselves and beyond in a world that is constantly changing very fast. Abby has always been passionate about learning and sharing knowledge. Abby graduated from Oxford University with a Doctorate in Philosophy in the field of medicinal innovation – designing innovative antibiotics and anti-fungicides – and worked both in Research and Development and Government utilising project management, business improvement, and authentic leadership. Connect with Abby on Linkedin.