Who Inspires You?

The New Entrepreneurial Leader, coauthored by Danna Greenberg, Kate McKone-Sweet, and James Wilson, came together through the contributions of more than 20 staff and faculty. Pulling from all of their expertise, the book not only explains in detail the idea of entrepreneurial leadership but also offers educators specific examples of how to integrate these ideas into courses and curricula. We asked contributors who has been an influential entrepreneurial leader in their lives.

Currently, I get inspired by my kids, and I think the reason is that they look at the world in such a different way. They believe they can do everything. They haven’t put up the artificial barriers that we often do. They’re passionate about what they do. They’re seeking out and engaging their friends and colleagues. I think they’re entrepreneurial leaders just because they’re using all the skills and talents that they have.Kate McKone-Sweet, associate professor of technology & operations management

Tony Hsieh, CEO of online retailer Zappos, grew the company to more than $1 billion in revenues in less than 10 years. Hsieh reorganized Zappos around his vision of what its culture and values should be. He strongly believes that if your employees are happy, they will be more motivated and satisfied with their jobs, which in turn will inspire them to “wow” customers. Strong customer service and profits are the end results.Sal Parise, associate professor of information systems

Though I’ve never met him, Terry Laughlin taught me how to swim using what I think of as an entrepreneurial approach to lessons. His books and DVDs helped me become mindful of my swim technique (especially balance and streamlining) and then helped me enjoy the journey of taking action to improve my stroke, seeing what happens, and adjusting some more. In the past year I’ve gone from nearly drowning after one lap in the pool to swimming a mile with ease. A little different from a typical business example!Keith Rollag, associate professor of management

After graduating college, I joined Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA). My boss, Anita Nasra, had barely a budget. But she used her deep understanding of the local neighborhoods to find people with similar passions, connect them, and create community initiatives that enhanced the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. She helped me find people to teach English to new Haitian and Vietnamese immigrants, and she showed me how to find free classroom space and teaching materials by tapping social networks. In turn, many of those students went on to use their new English skills to start businesses or find work.James Wilson, senior researcher and writer, Babson Executive Education

Illustration by Michael Austin/theispot.com

Illustration by Michael Austin/theispot.com


me. Kevin and GLSEN took what is often seen as a controversial and dangerous conversation—the issue of youth and sexual orientation—and reframed it as an essential question of tolerance, respect, and safety for all students. This brilliant formulation has allowed bridges to be built between a wide range of individuals and groups who are too often at odds. His work and the work of GLSEN have been an intelligent and creative expression of values, making use of a new entrepreneurial lens of innovation, social responsibility, and values.Mary Gentile, director, Giving Voice to Values, and senior research scholar

Over 50 years my stepfather, Steven Grossman, took a small, family-owned company, Southern Container Corp., and built it into one of the largest, privately held container board producers in the U.S. The growth arose out of his love for what he did, his commitment to the people he worked with, and his willingness to take risks. He taught me to fall in love with what I do and follow my passion. Entrepreneurial leaders will encounter many hurdles; passion fuels their ability to create ways to conquer those hurdles and realize their dreams.Danna Greenberg, associate professor of management and Mandell Family Term Chair

I have been influenced by many entrepreneurs over the years, but I’d have to say that my biggest influence was my father, Alva Hunt. He ran a hardware and appliance store in Virginia. He taught me that you have to be incredibly responsive to your customers, even when it’s difficult, inconvenient, and on occasion not particularly profitable. He was very clear about his values and the importance of sticking with those values, no matter what, over the long term. I’m thankful for that lesson.James Hunt, associate professor of management

Reed Hastings, founder and CEO of Netflix, was a math teacher in the Peace Corps, so he was always interested in numbers. Netflix has been a pioneer in the use of analytics to help customers make good video choices. Hastings established the Netflix Prize, which uses open innovation approaches to further refine customer preference models. Netflix also uses analytics in its operations—locating distribution centers, optimizing marketing offers, and even setting prices. Yet Hastings is not just a geek. He has sponsored programs to help employees and managers tell better stories.Tom Davenport, President’s Distinguished Professor of IT and Management

While developer James Rouse is best known for his festival marketplaces (including Boston’s Faneuil Hall Marketplace), his real passion was “to build a better city.” Recognizing how societal and market changes were leading to suburban sprawl, he sought to harness these forces to build and maintain communities. I grew up in Columbia, Md., which he designed with the help of academics, religious leaders, policy makers, and business people. The city included such oddities for the time as interfaith centers, economically mixed housing, considerable open space, and elements promoting walkability. His firm belief that a successful community promotes constant communication and creative collaboration among all stakeholders seems even more important today.Stephen Deets, associate professor of politics

Many people have shaped my view of an entrepreneurial leader. A high school friend who through hard work and calculated risks took his family business with a dozen people to more than 60 employees. A former colleague who through perseverance and smart alliances created an educational program for humanitarian logistics despite a political and challenging environment. Sir Ernest Shackleton, who almost a century ago led an expedition to Antarctica, and whose composure and calm ensured the survival of his entire crew while they lived on floating ice for more than a year after losing their ship. In these people I see such characteristics as creativity, persistence, integrity, and optimism, making them deserving of the label entrepreneurial leader.Sebastian Fixson, assistant professor of technology & operations management

Kevin Jennings, founder and executive director of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), a national organization promoting safe schools for all students, inspires