What should educators know about Entrepreneurial Leadership?

By Oluwabusola Majekodunmi (Staff member of Entrepreneurial Leadership Faculty at African Leadership Academy)

Many have wondered why Entrepreneurial Leadership (EL) is one of the core subject taught at African Leadership Academy(ALA). The answer is simple, we believe that at the heart of transforming the African continent, there’s a need for a crop of leaders who are not only patriotic and servant leaders but entrepreneurial and problem solvers. Over the last twelve years, we have invested time and resources in fine-tuning the curriculum to ensure it delivers on the promise. The World Education Week hosted by T4 in October (5 – 9) was an opportunity for the Entrepreneurial Leadership team supported by the Anzisha team to showcase our learning over the last twelve years.

The theme of the virtual event was “Effectively Teaching Entrepreneurial Leadership”, hence the question posed by this article – “What should educators know about entrepreneurial leadership?” and an additional question is “How should you implement a similar program at your school?”. Before we dive in, I’ll begin with our WHY. Similar to what we encourage our students and very young entrepreneurs to do, I’d like to share with you the WHY before delving into the WHAT and HOW.  

The Entrepreneurial Leadership Department’s mission is to develop young ethical and entrepreneurial leaders. We recognize that we can’t achieve this alone, we need other educators across the continent on board. The Anzisha Educators Community is dedicated to supporting educators in unleashing the entrepreneurial skills of their students. Therefore it is important that we are not only sharing our success story as a department but we bring you along on the process and pitfalls to avoid.  

“As educators and by extension parents and adults, we can intentionally create an environment that encourages curiosity, problem-solving, empathy, and innovation.”

It was no surprise that this was the first recommendation the team presented to the audience. START WITH YOUR WHY. We didn’t leave it as a blanket statement though. Before kickstarting any entrepreneurial program, have a clear aim in mind. What is the end goal? This would help you fine-tune the HOW. It’s important to recognize that not everyone would become an entrepreneur, however, a necessary attribute that can help position young people in a fast-changing world is to have an entrepreneurial mindset. As educators and by extension parents and adults, we can intentionally create an environment that encourages curiosity, problem-solving, empathy, and innovation.  

Below are the five key takeaways we shared with participants at the event.  

  1. Have a clear aim – to develop an Entrepreneurial Leadership mindset in students 

We believe it is key to start with aims in mind. Although entrepreneurship education is not a panacea to the most pressing needs of society, we know they can work. Research indicates that young people who engage in such programs are more likely to develop and exhibit entrepreneurial mindsets and competencies. In other words, aspects of entrepreneurship can be taught – and practised – to bring about results with positive long-term effects, such as innovative thinking, creativity, enhanced socio-emotional skills, and business know-how. 

  1. Create a lab to pilot ideas 

With a clear aim in mind, the next step is to create a lab where you can pilot ideas around entrepreneurship education. You should create activities for students to practice and develop their entrepreneurial and leadership skills. Some ideas won’t work out as planned but it is part of the learning process for both the school and the students. Embrace failure as an opportunity to grow and develop new capabilities. 

We have designed EL as a lab within ALA where we emphasize a data-driven approach to swiftly innovating both our curriculum and practices and paying keen attention to your local context.  

  1. Use common tools 

In designing EL as a lab, we have stuck to one principle – use common tools. Our two-year curriculum leverages tools such as design thinking, Business Model Canvas, SWOT analysis, and disciplined entrepreneurship text from MIT. We have adapted these tools to suit a younger audience in a limited resource context. We have ready-made lesson plans that educators can access through our Anzisha Educator Community and Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership.  

  1. Craft opportunities for practice  

Entrepreneurial Leadership is about developing ethical entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs. However, it must be experiential to be effective. Hence we recommend that educators carefully craft opportunities for practice. At ALA we do this incrementally starting with an exploration of purpose which builds into a personal leadership project, then an original idea for development both at an individual and team level. The team’s original ideas culminate in an annual Entrepreneurship Festival. 

  1. SEP-simulation by creating ecosystem/market 

By the second year, students join our student enterprise program where we simulate a real-life economy. They either apply to start their own enterprises or join an existing enterprise. We recommend that schools could take different approaches to simulate an economy. They could start with Market days, where the students practice basic production, marketing, selling, and financial literacy skills and then gradually build up an ecosystem with the bank (ECOSIM), investment council, and board of advisors.  

You may wonder if you need to implement all of these to help your students or wards become more entrepreneurial. The key highlight however is that whatever you do, you should craft opportunities for practice and have period reflections to enable them self identify their growth over time.