With the 2016 Presidential campaigns in full bloom and dominating most news coverage, it got me thinking what it would be like if we picked an entrepreneur as President.
Of course, entrepreneurs aren't exclusively business people--social entrepreneurship and institutional innovation are real and important things that change lives. You don't need to start or run a for-profit enterprise to be a top-notch entrepreneur. Instead of what they do, entrepreneurs are defined by their mindsets and skills.
So how would a President entrepreneur or an entrepreneur President think? What could that look like?
If you asked three different people what traits an entrepreneur has, you'll likely get seven different answers. But here are a few of the characteristics you'd hear most often. They include: spotting opportunity, creativity, collaboration, ability to change, communications skills and persistence.
I think most people would agree those are good traits to have. Perhaps especially good for a future President. So what entrepreneurship skills may be most important for our next President bring to the job?
Since entrepreneurs know entrepreneurship skills best, I asked a few what they thought about the skills connections between white board and White House.
If I was picking, my view is that the interconnected nature of the world's economies and cultures, coupled with complex challenges, will require an entrepreneurship approach of flexibility and adaptability. Values and strong opinions count a great deal. But the best entrepreneurs expect and embrace change and even make a change in direction work to their advantage. I'd love to see an entrepreneurial President who knew how to pivot.
Here's what a few other entrepreneurs and experts I know had to say picking an entrepreneur-in-chief.
Robert Grosshandler, founder and CEO of iConsumer.com told me our national CEO should be, “Innovative and focused, with an eye on using our startup economy, business crowdfunding, and the 99% to give America global competitive advantage.”
Ammad Khan, founder of Citrusbits, told me, "Good entrepreneurs are collaborative and pay special attention to building great teams. I'd really love to see those skills take center stage in the Oval Office because great teams can create great results."
Kim Smith, Senior Vice-President of Programs and Research at the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, said, "Being able to think entrepreneurially is critically important for the role of President--especially in today's challenging time where the country needs innovative solutions to problems. In addition, the ability and desire to learn are important to entrepreneurial leadership and would serve our next president very well. Our next President, like the best entrepreneurs, should not only listen to others but actively seek out and learn from others."
Rob Willington, a serial entrepreneur and CEO of Swiftkurrent, a digital marketing agency that works with political candidates, told me, "Entrepreneurs are feisty and willing to go above and beyond to achieve goals while working in the reality of limited budgets. Instead of having a budget up, more taxes, mentality, we need a start up mindset that is more scrappy and nimble to get government working for the people."
Since the candidates themselves often refer to running for office as a prolonged job interview, thinking about them as candidates for an entrepreneurship position makes some sense. Being President of the United States may be the ultimate entrepreneurship job--even being considered for the job requires showing off an impressive skill set.
But that's nothing compared to the abilities--entrepreneurial and otherwise--that will be required once a candidate wins the job. If you think negotiating an IPO or a distribution agreement is tough (and it is), think of the routine challenges a President and their staff face. And while looking at political candidates through an entrepreneurship lens may not be perfect, it's helpful to think through how we see, value and pick the people we work with--or work for us.