As the world got a little smaller and we became connected through radio and television, and later the internet, people became attracted to the greats of the world. There were those who pushed the human mind beyond the confines of the Earth. And others who used words and public demonstration to create equality, end racism and stop the war.
They became the trusted voices, identifiable leaders who shaped entire countries and communities into what we know today, and left legacies for the next generations.
Today, when people feel there is a lack of leadership around them, they often look for hope in the media; seeking inspiration and looking for people to inspire change. But that no longer means we are only drawn to people who use their words to do it. Our adrenaline-filled minds often look to people who take action; we crave risk and passion, money and fame.
We now equate leadership with entrepreneurship, without understanding that one does not necessarily mean they’re the other. There are different drivers and motivations of each. Entrepreneurs are so often seen as leaders, almost without question, but leaders are not necessarily entrepreneurs.
The way I see it, leaders are dreamers. They project the future through their words and action, taking small steps create change amongst the masses. It is often a measured and planned process, but one which progressively revolutionises society together in pursuit of a common dream.
On the other hand, an entrepreneur pioneers change through a product or business. Especially when we’re talking about entrepreneurs who are inventing new things and radically transforming industries. They are often running a sprint, not a marathon, leading the charge to create new and exciting products, before moving on to the next thing. They innovate and move quickly, hoping that society will catch up to them, rather than working tirelessly for change to happen around them.
While both strive to create something better for the future, the key drivers motivating entrepreneurs and leaders are essentially different. Yet, in a connected and concentrated world, we place both on par with each other, elevating entrepreneurs as natural leaders without doubt.
To provide an example, think of Elon Musk, perhaps best known as the founder of the company which later became PayPal, and the pivotal role he’s played as CEO of Tesla Motors. He’s a natural innovator and entrepreneur who has forever changed the car and renewables industry, and could one day make space travel possible for everyday people.
Musk has been named as a transformational leader who inspires radical change. His products ride the innovation uptake curve. He’s a natural innovator who focuses on building the next product while leaving society to adopt his latest invention.
On the other hand Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr was a leader who worked to bring about change in the people and community around him, and championed for a better future.
Both men have sought to create change, yet one has done this through inventing products to disrupt and shape the way we live and work, and the other did this through societal influence; by working to gain the support of the community around him.
In a world of growing connectivity, short attention spans and a constant state of rush, perhaps invention and entrepreneurship is the rise of a new form of leadership? Is it possible that we’re no longer inspired by the dreaming of our visionaries. And instead we’re idolising and seeking inspiration from entrepreneurs who gain fame with products and technology that shape the way we live?