Entrepreneurship: serving the world (part 1)

By Lydia Scott

Servant leadership is a phrase rather foreign to the startup world. I work in the entrepreneurial space, which is a world of ladder climbing, building ‘personal brands’, smashing sales targets and selling your vision. The thrust of this environment is toward the narcissistic promotion of self. In a space where there are hundreds of new innovative ideas fighting for customers and investment every day, to cut through and be heard you have to be good at promoting your credibility as an entrepreneur, and why your vision is worth investing in above all others. Even the most worthy of visions faces this challenge.

Not only that but the business world has earned a name for itself of being ‘Big Bad Business’. We’ve seen the engines of economics and capitalism result in some pretty harmful damage to people and planet – this is not servant leadership to me.

But despite these things, more recently I’ve begun to view entrepreneurship as a significant opportunity for leadership of the servant kind. To be an entrepreneur can mean using the engine of business to build things that matter and that drive the world forward. To me, this then presents a tension between having humility as a servant leader but needing to powerfully share your vision in order to see it realised.

I wrote in a journal about a year ago: “I don’t want to build something great just for the sake of being labeled ‘successful’ (whatever that means). I’d like to have my work in the business world motivated by a desire to build things that serve the world, leaving it in a more just and whole place than I found it.”

This all sounds very noble, but every day I feel that pull of narcissistic self-promotion in my professional life. And given we’re the same person inside work and out, I fear this flowing on into my personal life too. So I find myself asking, what does servant leadership authentically look like in the entrepreneurial sphere I find myself passionate about?

Part two to follow…

Photo by N.Reese

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