For four decades I have worked with small business entrepreneurs, helping them grow their businesses by keeping stakeholder success and consciousness of how they do business in the forefront of their minds. I have seen how, by developing the characteristics of what I call The Responsible Entrepreneur, anyone helping to bring new business into the world can fulfill the promise of entrepreneurship and contribute to the creation of a better world.
Every Responsible Entrepreneur represents one of four archetypes, each with a unique role to play in the entrepreneurial system. Cultural anthropologists have identified all four in every healthy culture, and all four are needed to ensure the health of our own evolving social system. Each takes on change differently in search of different outcomes. All four approaches can also be found inside established organizations, among intrapreneurs who lead change.
Archetype 1 – The Freedom Entrepreneur
They are driven by the desire to live freely and creatively, and their contribution is the intense pursuit of perfection, potential, and “doing it right.” For an example, think of Steve Jobs or a Samurai warrior. Freedom entrepreneurs challenge traditional businesses to stay on their toes and dread obsolescence. They remind us of the value of full-spirited innovation in a free economic system.
Archetype 2 – The Social Entrepreneur
Social Entrepreneurs are foundational to change. They play the role of exposing gaps in thinking. They often sacrifice for the greater good while seeking to mend a tear in the fabric of society that others don’t seem to see. Sir Richard Branson exemplifies this archetype perfectly when he takes on outrageous endeavors to call attention to what’s missing from the global dialogue, or when he designs businesses that foster camaraderie and mutual understanding. This group forms businesses that serve the consumer and living systems. They care passionately about people’s spirits and their ability to thrive.
Archetype 3 – The Reciprocity Entrepreneur
Reciprocity Entrepreneurs support the whole by making sure that all life gets what it needs. They work to make the systems that nourish us healthy. Reciprocity entrepreneurs see the need to work in balance with human and natural systems, and to do good as they do well. They seek to reduce the harm we do on Earth and in society. An example of this archetype is Oprah Winfrey, who in the course of her routine business has done more to evolve education—for girls in particular—than anyone in the traditional school systems. She does it, she says, because it makes everything else possible and, without this, all else fails.
Archetype 4 – The Regenerative Entrepreneur
The Regenerative Entrepreneur seeks to guide people and organizations as they cross boundaries and create transformations for a better world. These entrepreneurs are inspiring and transcendent in the way they engage others, unstoppable by challenges and restraints. They take on the work of evolving the systems that guide and even control us in our daily lives—such as how the ownership of businesses is established and regulated, or how social justice is administered.
Regenerative Entrepreneurs work to achieve change through the “how” of doing business, as well as social advocacy. Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page are exemplars. They challenged the regulatory paradigm of IPOs when they took Google public. They envisioned changing people’s engagement in public offerings by structuring theirs in a way that prevented big players from using pre-buys through agents of IPO to block average people. Google’s drive for universal information is also a challenge to current systems. (My book The Responsible Business includes a case study of Google.)
Each of the four archetypal entrepreneurs approaches growth and change differently. Each is critical to revitalizing our democracy and, on the larger world stage, capitalism itself. If you wish to develop your own role in this work, a good place to begin is with the questions, “What nature of entrepreneur am I? To what do I aspire?”
Read an excerpt from The Responsible Business: Reimagining Sustainability and Success.
Carol Sanford is the author of The Responsible Business, published by Jossey Bass and winner of four book awards for business and non-fiction, and of The Responsible Entrepreneur: Innovator Entrepreneurs and A System of Change, to be released 2013. Sign up for her blog and newsletter to learn more about responsible business and The Responsible Entrepreneur.