Research states that management and leadership styles are key to implementing community engagement or social entrepreneurship in higher education institutions. Hazelkorn (2016) suggests that depending on the selected institutional model of social entrepreneurship, institutional governance structures could include leadership positions for the specific tasks or that the tasks portfolio of these positions should be amended by these tasks. In any case leadership support is seen as a major input for fostering social entrepreneurship in higher education institutions as it signifies its relevance and indicates support to students and staff engaging in these areas.

Relevance of input

The engagement of leadership for social entrepreneurship is relevant as

  • it contributes to creating a culture of social entrepreneurship and community engagement in the higher education institutions.
  • Leaders who engage in these areas provide strong good practice examples that can stimulate staff and students to also engage in these activities.
  • Leaders supporting engagement strengthen its relevance and increase its legitimacy.
  • Engaged leaders can mobilise funds and further resources from internal and external stakeholders and donors.

Examples of interventions at institutional level

The literature provides several models of leadership for social entrepreneurship:

  • Embedded leadership (Powell and Dayson 2013)

This model zooms in on the internal processes of higher education institutions. Central to the concept is the creation of middle management roles (such as associate deans at faculty level) who are commissioned with specific tasks to promote social entrepreneurship and social engagement. The task include:

    • Sharing, refining, and embedding the general vision of social entrepreneurship/community engagement in the institution
    • Spreading knowledge and ideas around the topic
    • Support academic staff implementing entrepreneurship in their research and education and serve as problem solvers
  • Connective leadership (Reichert 2019)

This model points to managers from the top level of the higher education institutions engaging or collaborating actively with regional stakeholders. Their activities are strong good practice exemplars for internal stakeholders as well as regional, external stakeholders who are interested in collaborating/innovating with the higher education institution.

  • Distributed leadership (Cannatelli et al 2017)

In distributed leadership models, leadership is defined by performed task and not by position. Thus, any person who engages in social entrepreneurship in an institution can serve as a leader in this area. However, institutions must be able to identify these persons and support them in collaborating with others and exploiting their expertise.

  • Cultural leadership (Muralidharan and Pathak 2019)

Cultural leadership finally focusses on how staff evaluates the social entrepreneurship behaviour of leaders against their (cultural) stereotypes of good social entrepreneurship behaviour. Positive evaluations might stimulate a similar behaviour. However, management interventions could relate to these stereotypes to stimulate copying behaviour and wider acceptance of social entrepreneurship activities.

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Other relevant resources
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Links to selected HEInnovate case studies
  • Not covered by HEInnovate
Further reading
  • Cannatelli, Benedetto; Smith, Brett; Giudici, Alessandro; Jones, Jessica; Conger, Michael (2017): An Expanded Model of Distributed Leadership in Organizational Knowledge Creation. In Long Range Planning 50 (5), pp. 582–602. DOI: 10.1016/j.lrp.2016.10.002.
  • Muralidharan, Etayankara; Pathak, Saurav (2019): Consequences of Cultural Leadership Styles for Social Entrepreneurship: A Theoretical Framework. In Sustainability 11 (4), p. 965. DOI: 10.3390/su11040965.
  • Powell, James; Dayson, Karl (2013): Engagement and the Idea of the Civic University. In Paul Benneworth (Ed.): University Engagement with Socially Excluded Communities. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands, pp. 143–162.
  • Reichert, Sybille (2019): The Role of Universities in Regional Innovation Ecosystems. European University Association. Brussels (EUA Study).