Leadership in social entrepreneurship

Financial sustainability in social entrepreneurial organizations
Management of social entrepreneurial organizations


  1. Leadership in the context of the SE organization
  2. Functions of the leader in the social enterprise
  3. Leadership, motivation and talent development
  4. Activities for readers
  5. References

Leadership in the context of the SE organization

Leadership is a key factor for the success of the social enterprise. When it comes to promoting social change, the leadership helps to establish goals and motivate people to works towards their achievement. The leader is someone who:

  • Gives an example
  • Awakes peoples’ consciousness
  • Change peoples’ behaviour
  • Is passionate about the organization’s mission
  • Convince others
  • Achieve high results
  • Commit himself/herself to an important cause and share his/her values with others
  • Identifies new opportunities for the organization

Leadership is the ability to inspire people to follow your instructions voluntarily without exercising any form of force. 

Leadership in social enterprises relies on ethics, integrity and expertise, but also on empathy and passion. Leaders in SE has to make positive impact and to establish strong support system among their followers (employees, other stakeholders and communities) and to nurture new future leaders.

The leadership is different from the management. The leader tells what ought to be done, while the manager finds a way how to do it. The leader is the motivator, the inspirer, and the beacon that shows the way in the dark, while the manager is the organizer and the engine that moves the organization forwards its goal.

Leaders understand that the change is an opportunity, not a thread and put a huge emphasis on innovations. Leaders generate new ideas and concentrate team efforts in the right direction.

Leaders influence people to behave in a certain way. They must be able to align people’s priorities, values, actions and even emotions with their visions and ideas. There are different perspectives and theories about leadership which combines psychology and management tactics. Some of them defines two types of leaders: 1) charismatic leaders and 2) servants

Charismatic leaders have strong, magnetic personality that attracts others. They possess expressive driving force and could transform other’s attitudes, ideas and perceptions. Charismatic leaders are especially important in the times of uncertainty and crisis, when the stability of the society is shaken. Very often, the emergency of a strong, popular leader is a predicative of social change or even revolution, because he/she forms movements of discontent people, who are ready to oppose to the status quo. Charismatic leaders are often passionate about what they do and people thrust them with their hearts, rather than they minds.

The social entrepreneurs may be charismatic leaders, especially if they inspire others to make changes in the societal structure. In this case, they should possess the ability to express and share their vision and to exercise sound practical and ethical judgment every step of the way.

Servant leaders on the other hand, are those who are focused on serving their communities. Their leadership is geared towards the development and well-being of others. Servant leaders are more engaged in the daily lives of those they serve. They have the capacity to educate, train and build skills in their followers. Unlike the charismatic leaders who enjoy the glamorous settings and the big platforms, the servant leaders usually work face to face with others in classrooms or workshops, interacting with more compassion, intimacy and personality.

Sometimes, charismatic and servant leadership can go hand by hand. Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Marin Luther King are excellent examples of leaders who combine both servant and charismatic in one person.

Distributed leadership is a popular alternative to the traditional understandings of leadership. According to this paradigm, the leadership doesn’t stem from an individual but comes from within the holistic qualities of groups. In other words, leadership emerges from a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts — from a general culture or lifestyle that is shared, practiced, and achieved by entire organizations or communities of people. Distributed leadership is involved in small-scale daily activities and interactions, as well as the large-scale societal movements and events. For example, the education nowadays is subjected to the ideas and directions given by a number of stakeholders such as administrators, teachers, parents, students, community, government etc. and all of them takes part in the decision making processes. In these ways, the leadership becomes a full, inclusive, culturally sensitive, and democratic social construction.

These three types of leaderships are in a constant relationship and symbiosis, especially in their attempts to bring positive and extraordinary social change on behalf of any community that might be in need. Often charismatic leaders emerge out of the frustrated community needs and crises. They serve as a driving force of change. These leaders, in turn, work with servant leaders who strategically promote a culture of distributed leadership that makes its way deep into the heart of the community in need and strengthens it to the core.

Meaning of leadership in organization

  • Leadership involves: establishing a clear vision, sharing that vision with others so that they will follow willingly, providing the information, knowledge and methods to realize that vision, coordinating and balancing the conflicting interests of all members and stakeholders.
  • A leader steps up in times of crisis, and is able to think and act creatively in difficult situations.

Read more: http://www.busi nessdictionary.conh/tfefinition/leadership.html

Functions of the leader in social enterprise

Leadership is a specific social activity. He/she regulates internal interpersonal relationships and provides support for each member. The leadership functions are as follow:

  • Setting goals
  • Developing programs and action plans;
  • Making decisions, bringing them to staff and contractors, and organizing their implementation;
  • Assigning work tasks
  • Adapting decisions and coordinating the activities
  • Creating external and internal conditions for their implementation;
  • Motivation and inspiration
  • Monitoring work, performance analysis and feedback
  • Recommendations and directions for improvement

There are four common features and abilities that contemporary leaders need to possess or develop in themselves:

  • Attention: the ability to set goal or direction that is appealing to followers;
  • Meaning: the ability to create and convey clear and understandable ideas;
  • Trust: the ability to be trustworthy and stable so that people can feel they can count on him/her;
  • Self-management: the ability to know himself/herself including strengths and weaknesses

Leadership is a process which comprise the following activities:

  • Evaluation of the situation – political, economic, social, cultural, technological
  • Analysis – scanning, monitoring, interaction, management surveillance.
  • Planning – forecasting, modelling, choosing the direction of action.
  • Implementation – training, procedures, remuneration, sanctions.
  • Improvement – recommending, maintenance, development.

Leadership, motivation and talent development

Motivation is the key that helps a person achieve the set goals and objectives. The successful leader should have the capacity to influence motivation. This is done by knowing and responding to the needs of the others and keeping an open perspective on their characters, motives and values. Common motivational factors for the social enterprises include:

  • Working towards socially important cause
  • Changing peoples’ life for better
  • Money as a reward and incentive.
  • Non-monetary awards and recognitions
  • Strict requirements (list of obligations – what has to be done)
  • Empathy (sharing the same feelings and emotions)
  • Accomplishments and prestige
  • Training and personal development
  • Team work and community spirit

An important factor for increased motivation is the commitment of the employees and other stakeholders, expressed in faith in the organization, identification with its values, goals and activities. It is achieved through continuous contacts between the leader and the people in the organization, their involvement in management decisions, distributions of benefits, opportunities for career development, etc.

The leader of the SE has to ensure that the values of all stakeholders are in a harmony with those of the organization. All people, who are in contact with the social enterprise should share the same morals and ethics. Moreover, the leader should set personal example and provide training if necessary.

Appreciation and rewards are key motivators that influence a person to achieve a desired goal. Rewarding good/ exceptional behavior with a small gesture of appreciation, certificate or letter can be a great motivator.

Involving people in planning and decision making processes is not just a motivation tool, but also facilitate the internal communication help everyone to get better understanding of their role in the organization.

Team spirit is the soul of the organization. It affects directly the moral in the organization. The leader should always make sure that everyone enjoy performing his/her duties as a team and is a valuable part of the whole.

Empathy means walking in the other person’s shoes, viewing the situation from his/her angle and sympathizing with them during difficult times. This create strong emotional and personal bounds and trusts in the leader and increase the loyalty towards him/her.

Activities for readers

1. Watch the videos and answer the questions

  • https://youtu.be/-5Yp-vTol2E
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtXKQOtNWPg
  • Who is the leader in the first video the (trainer? 0r any of the dancers? Etc.)
    There are no true or false answers. The perspective depends on the structure of the individual way of thinking.
  • Make a list of the functions in the team work from the second video. Justify the content of the list.

2. Start a research

Compile a list of people you have met in your life and whom you consider to be leaders. What did they provided to you and what did you provide in this relationship?

3. Make your self-profile of you as leader

  • Build a profile for yourself based on the qualities you think you possess.
  • What is your attitude towards group responsibility? Justify your answer.

4. Use Word Café method to create a dialogue on an important social or environmental topic

World Café

This is a simple, effective and convenient format for creating a platform of knowledge and information sharing while hosting a group dialogue. It is also known as a Leadership Café, Community Café, Creative Café and could be easily modified to suit any target group and to meet a wide variety of needs.


Group of about four to six participants sit around tables with a “table host” and discuss questions which have been defined in advance. After approx. 20 minutes the participants move to the next table where another topic is discussed. Discussions results are marked down on a paper table-cloth or a flip chart. “The host” welcomes new participants and informs them about the results from the previous discussion on the table. Finally, the results of all groups are presented in a common plenum session. Strategies for further actions and opportunities are identified.

Large World Café events were hosted, for example, in Israel in 2011 when more than a thousand people discussed issues related to social justice. The mega event was held in several cities in just one day on 1000 tables.

The World café works through dialogue and engagements. It allows the creation of unique environment and is always intimate, even when it scales to a large number of people.

The design principles are as follows:

  • Set the context (know the purpose and parameters of the dialogues)
  • Create hospitable space (make everyone welcome)
  • Explore questions and issues of relevance
  • Encourage everyone contribution
  • Connect diverse perspectives
  • Listen together for Insights
  • Share collective discoveries

Source: http://www.theworldcafe.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Cafe-To-Go-Revised.pdf

References and links for self-study

Castillo, F.A. and Hallinger, P., 2018. Systematic review of research on educational leadership and management in Latin America, 1991–2017. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 46(2), pp.207-225.

Covin, J.G. and Slevin, D.P., 2017. The entrepreneurial imperatives of strategic leadership. Strategic entrepreneurship: Creating a new mindset, pp.307-327.

Durkin, C. and Gunn, R. eds., 2016. Social entrepreneurship: A skills approach. Policy Press.

Ebert, H. and Flemes, D. eds., 2018. Regional Powers and Contested Leadership. Palgrave Macmillan.

Ferreira, V.H.S. and Miranda, H., 2019. Leadership and Organization Innovation Adoption: A Case Study. In Handbook of Research on Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Internationalization (pp. 339-367). IGI Global.

Galli, B.J., 2019. A shared leadership approach to transformational leadership theory: Analysis of research methods and philosophies. In Scholarly Ethics and Publishing: Breakthroughs in Research and Practice (pp. 751-790). IGI Global.

Henry, C., Foss, L., Fayolle, A., Walker, E. and Duffy, S., 2015. Entrepreneurial leadership and gender: Exploring theory and practice in global contexts. Journal of Small Business Management, 53(3), pp.581-586.

Klenke, K., 2016. Qualitative research in the study of leadership. Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Madsen, S.R. and Scribner, R.T., 2017. A perspective on gender in management: the need for strategic cross-cultural scholarship on women in management and leadership. Cross Cultural & Strategic Management, 24(2), pp.231-250.

Smith, W.K., Lewis, M.W. and Tushman, M.L., 2016. Both/and” leadership. Harvard Business Review, 94(5), pp.62-70.