The message was simple but powerful when Rice Center for Engineering Leadership (RCEL) Executive Director Kazimir Karwowski delivered the keynote address to the 2016 International Entrepreneurship Educators Conference (IEEC) at Liverpool John Moores University on September 8:
“You can’t be a successful entrepreneur if you aren’t an effective leader.”
His message resonated with the group of educators and industry leaders, most of them based in the United Kingdom. Karwowski spoke about the culture of leadership and entrepreneurship at Rice, how the two are often intertwined, and how developing students’ leadership abilities naturally helps make them more effective as business owners.
“If you can’t communicate your ideas about what your business does, if you can’t motivate people to work with you, you can’t be a good entrepreneur,” he said.
Karwowski readily agrees that his approach is simplistic—and he knows his audience already understood that intellectually. But he points out that the U.K.’s nascent leadership and entrepreneurship curriculum focuses on the metrics of leadership, not the hands-on exercises and opportunities so central to RCEL.
This wasn’t the first time he’s spoken about the culture of leadership and the intersection of leading a team and building a business. At the IEEC, however, he was speaking to a group of like-minded educators, looking for ways to improve how they encourage their students and develop their leadership habits.
“This university has really developed its leadership programs over the last couple of years,” he said. “And the number of students participating has increased significantly.”
Karwowski hopes that his experience will be useful to his U.K. counterparts.
Some of the students will be able to see for themselves how RCEL’s approach to leading is tackled in the classroom this week; four of them are on campus for an exchange program, attending classes and shadowing Rice engineering students. The goal is to send four RCEL students to Liverpool next spring to experience their program.