Inspire Change by Thinking Like an Entrepreneur
May 28, 2014 | Focus on Women
After attending the Forbes Women’s Summit: Power Redefined in New York, I’ve returned to my office energized and inspired. It was an honor to share ideas with some of the most savvy, forward-thinking women in leadership today.
During the summit, it was my pleasure to present the first Northwestern Mutual Excellence in Entrepreneurship award to Ingrid Vanderveldt. A lifelong entrepreneur, Ingrid is the first ever Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Dell Inc., where she oversees Dell’s entrepreneurial initiatives globally, including the Dell Center for Entrepreneurs and the $130 million Dell Innovators Credit Fund, which she created. Her vision is to empower a billion women by 2020. That effort includes giving them tools; she envisions a world where every woman has a mobile device. It also includes giving them knowledge. Ingrid works to facilitate opportunities for girls and women for learning, growth and entrepreneurship.
I believe that each of us—in our own way and in our own world—can effect positive change by embracing the kind of entrepreneurial spirit Ingrid demonstrates. At Northwestern Mutual, we encourage employees to act like owners. We embrace change, celebrate our successes and promote experimentation. Whether you own a small business or work for a large company, a key component of success is to think like an entrepreneur by applying new and creative thinking to solve problems.
I love Ingrid’s story because it shows the significant impact we can have when we embrace our power and help those around us do the same. Women in leadership roles can be uncomfortable with power, and may resist using the power of their position for fear that others will view them as autocratic or bossy. I studied this topic for my doctoral dissertation, and came to realize that the appropriate use of power—including the power afforded by leadership positions like mine and Ingrid’s—is essential for success. Ideally, people will follow your lead not only because of your position, but also because they respect you and feel empowered to carry out your vision.
There’s much we can learn from Ingrid Vanderveldt, whether we’re leading a team of thousands or a household of four. To be successful, you have to think like an entrepreneur. Decide what’s important and find a way to make it happen. Lift the limitations you may have imposed on yourself. Welcome new approaches and ideas. And, perhaps most important, don’t be afraid to use power—and to empower others—to make your world a better place.
This story appears in the June 16, 2014 issue of Forbes magazine.