I don’t want my students or myself to be marginalised and ignored because we do not conform because we all know that is morally wrong. Not only does it stifle creativity but drowns the individual, and destroys the soul.
- Michele McArdle
Selfish Entrepreneurship is the Horatio Alger myth; with enough hard work and tenacity, anyone can get to the top. You might need to step on a few heads to get there, but that's the way the system works - you can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs.
Social Conservatives approve of tough love for those they see as beneath them but are less tolerant of criticism directed at them. It should be no surprise, then, that while they are big fans of standardized testing and strict classroom management for schools, they detest red tape and regulation that straight-jackets business and kills the entrepreneurial spirit.
These sorts of conservatives tend to favour an objectivist view of the world; individuals do best when they are allowed to be individuals and pursue their own selfish interests. It's standardized competition that produces the best results. When you turn that mindset into policy, you get agendas like George W. Bush's or the one Tim Hudak proposes; education should be about testing ability, rewarding success and then getting out of the individual's way so they can fend for themselves. It's "be your own boss" entrepeneurialism.
Business leaders who think this way will focus on the selfish, entrepreneurial win to the exclusion of all else; they develop the "I built that" mentality. Staff are labour, a service they use to achieve their goals and make money. If they spontaneously so some entrepreneurial spirit and go above and beyond, maybe they'll get a raise. Supporting the best talent, after all, improves the bottom line; efficiency is about getting rid of the talent that doesn't measure up.
Teachers who think this way will push their students to get the best possible score on standardized tests to prove how good they are as teachers, thereby securing the raise or bonus or whatever. Politicians who think this way - like Rob Ford - see the average person and say "their goal should be to get some pocket money to spend - my job is to lean on them to get there."
Social Entrepreneurs aren't so concerned about reaching the top; their goal is legacy. They want to do things differently, expand potential, change the world to raise all ships.
These enterprising individuals love the idea of partners; sounding boards for their own ideas and potential sources of thoughts that haven't occurred to them. To them, failure isn't an end point, but a starting point; life isn't standardized so lifestyles can't be, either.
Business leaders with this mindset see their staff as opportunities. They want their employees to challenge them and will naturally challenge them in return. It's not a competition between ideas but a lab for beta-testing ideas. They empower, encourage and engage their employees and as a result, nurture an entrepreneurial spirit among them, too.
You'd be surprised how many entrepreneurial teachers and business leaders there are out there; they aren't leaders in the sense of being top dog of a company, but are leaders to the people who learn to trust them. Given the right support, these social entrepreneurs are incubators for talent, accomplishment, innovation.
We don't promote that kind of entrepreneurship, though, do we? We appreciate it when we see it, but that's not the same thing as nurturing it. If a teacher encourages a student to go beyond what's in a standardized test, that kid would fail and the teacher would be punished, even though the questions the student are asking might be more relevant to their future than the ones the test want answered. The same too-often hold true in the private and public sectors; the person at the top is in charge and it's the job of everyone else to empower them. Funding and contracts go to companies, not to individuals.
Even those who try not to be cogs are hard-pressed to be anything else.
There's a great risk in assuming that all entrepreneurialism is selfish, meaning entrepreneurs will always rise to the top; it misses the fact that some of the greatest enablers of future success lead from wherever, even if they're at the bottom. Again - they don't judge success by title or wealth, but a sense of legacy and a feeling of accomplishment.
As our economies falter and traditional industries fail to deliver the results we've grown accustomed to, there's an urgent need for more innovative ideas, which will be brought forward by enterprising people. The schools, companies and societies that do best will be the ones that proactively harness and nurture entrepreneurial spirit rather than expecting it to leap out at them through traditional means. These social entrepreneurs will will empower success among their teams, students and citizens, resulting in new ideas and more independent (but supportive) individuals.
After all - the best leaders are the ones who lead by example.