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Leadership, Entrepreneurship, What’s the Difference?

I’m often asked the question, so what’s the difference between leadership and entrepreneurship?  

On face value, a pretty simple question to answer, but when put in the arts world and higher education contexts, pretty complex.

Leadership implies taking action that positively enhances the arts, which entrepreneurship involves the creation of an enterprise or venture.  That’s the simple answer (from my viewpoint).  Where it gets more interesting is when it is spun into various contexts.

Within the past several years, as the traditional constructs of the arts and culture sector have shown distinct signs of stress, leadership has taken on the meaning of finding solutions to this apparent problem, almost “lead us out of this dire situation.”  True leadership in the arts should seek to not only find new ways to involve the public in the arts, it should also expand the art forms themselves.

So in my quest here to find a working definition for leadership in the arts, I move toward one that is inclusive.  Leadership means moving an art form or art forms forward, in society, but also within themselves.  Contemporary creative artists exercise leadership  just as much as the person who heads up an organization that is engaging audiences in new and exciting ways.

Now entrepreneurship, again in my opinion, must involve the creation of an entity, the venture.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that it represents leadership.  The creation of a reed-making business may be quite successful and represent a true entrepreneurial effort, but it does not reflect leadership.  Guts, yes, but not necessarily leadership. 

Entrepreneurship combined with leadership appears to be emerging in the arts, having grown substantially in the social entrepreneurship domain.  These potential entities are fun to imagine, but of course, ever so difficult to make real.

As I contemplate teaching leadership and entrepreneurship this coming year, I need to remind myself of the differences among these 3 areas (leadership, entrepreneurship and leadership/entrepreneurship).  It’s all too easy to only teach to the third one of these, when in fact it’s the other 2 that must provide the driving force within the arts. 


  1. I enjoyed this particular blog post.
    In 2009 I formed a LLC called MICROFUNDEDARTS that uses an out-of-the-box, but very viable model for helping arts 501(c)(3)s create sustainable funding by utilizing their local communities business base as a platform.
    I was recent contacted by a graduate student at the Savannah College of Art and Design who requested to use MIROFUNDEDARTS as part of a joint tri-college Masters thesis concerning the new IRS sanctioned L3C legal structure (which was new to me).
    L3Cs ARE a socially driven, low profit (1 to 10%) entity, where the social mission precedes the company’s quest for profits. It has several interesting aspects; bridges the gap between LLC and 501(c)(3)s, and is able to accept investment capital from both the traditional business sector and the non-profit sector (Foundations, Charitable Trusts, etc.
    A good synopsis article can be found of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Lewis at for anyone interested in gaining a more in-depth understanding.

  2. Patricia Ewer says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this discussion.
    I have found, especially in non-profits(but I must admit it also exists in the commercial world) that the entrepreneur, the person who founds or creates a new endeavor is not the person to run it. That is another personality altogether perhaps the leader. I have seen organizations almost run into the ground by the entrepreneur because their egos would not let them step aside and allow another expert perform the day to day tasks. Big, creative thinkers are never good with the day to day.
    Patricia Ewer, co-author of Textile Conservation: Advances in Practice
    Owner, Textile Objects Conservation

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