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Thursday, January 18, 2018

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Monk, Architect, Diplomat
Mark Albion

September, 2010

In 2005, the leaders of Social Venture Network (SVN), a group of social entrepreneurs, asked me to research why members had difficulty scaling social enterprises up from founder-led to second generation-led organizations. Instead of scaling, why did they almost always sell their companies to larger enterprises? We all believed that a lack of finances was the primary culprit.

From a group of 400 social entrepreneurs, SVN executive director Deb Nelson and I selected 75 members for me to interview. It was a diverse group of entrepreneurs: 66 percent had founded a forprofit and 40 percent had founded a nonprofit; 60 percent were male and 40 percent were female; and 89 percent were white and 11 percent were racial minorities. All of them had experienced the challenge of scaling.

Surprisingly, our research of best practices and common obstacles revealed that scaling challenges rarely rose from financial limitations, but were generally due to a lack of leadership skills. To successfully scale up, these entrepreneurs needed to think differently and lead differently from their peers. They had to understand that social entrepreneurship is not just a form of entrepreneurship but rather an instrument for social change. They needed to define their businesses less in terms of products or services and more as vehicles for personal, organizational, and global transformation—a transformation they realized must begin with themselves.

Our research indicated that to make that transformation from entrepreneurial founder to successful leader depended on leading more like a monk, an architect, and a diplomat. As monks, these social entrepreneurs become more mindful of their leadership role in the company and their impact on people; as architects, they spend most of their time on the immeasurable process known as company culture; and as diplomats, they become expert collaborators inside and outside of their organizations. Let’s look more closely at these three transitions critical to leading for scale.

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