Covid 19: Defining what Entrepreneurial Leadership Looks Like in Times of Crisis

These days, it has become common to feel overwhelmed by the deluge of emails pouring into your inbox relating to the impact of the COVID-19, to your personal, professional, and academic life. The COVID-19 has infiltrated all facets of life, whether we want it to or not, and the Babson community faces both unique challenges and opportunities as we unceremoniously foray into the new era of social distancing and online learning.

The hard facts and tangible impact of the COVID-19 have been immense and should be clearly stated and known by all members of the community.

Graduation and commencement ceremonies have been postponed for the outgoing Class of 2020, an anticlimactic end to the journey of a distinguished class.

Study abroad trips are getting canceled. Babson’s BRIC Program, the flagship study abroad program that takes students through Russia, India, and China has been moved to the Spring Semester though it normally takes place in the Fall.

Looking to the future, there are new hurdles for prospective new students that will not be able to visit campus to make their final impressions before the looming May 1st deadline. Personally, the first on-campus visit I made to Babson last April was pivotal in my decision to choose Babson.

Now, Babson is brainstorming ways to virtually adapt to this challenge, with eTower being one organization to feature student founders on the Babson Admission Instagram page for “Business Feature Fridays".

Schools like Boston University have recently reported considering staying closed for on-campus activity until January 2021, which is spreading rumors that other schools, especially those in the Boston area, are considering similar measures.

Internship opportunities have been slipping from the grasps of students that have put hours of preparation and energy into their applications and interviews, with many having molded their summer plans around their now uncapitalized upon opportunities.

In addition, online classes have -- understandably -- not been the smoothest transition for both faculty and staff. With students operating in different time zones, Webex experiencing poor connection, and exams becoming topsy-turvy because of unforeseen technological interventions, the events as of late haven’t amounted to the unique Babson experience we all yearn to return to.

As Babson students, however, these problems are precisely the ones we should be wrapping our heads around as a community through discussion, collaboration, and most importantly, massive action! As entrepreneurs, we are called to solve problems by seeing pain and inequity as an opportunity to challenge our minds and see solutions where others can only see fear. President Spinelli sends this message to the community by posing a very powerful question: “What does entrepreneurial leadership in a crisis look like? How can we define it and work towards it?”

History has often illuminated true leaders by testing them in times of crisis, turmoil, fear, and paranoia. As G. Michael Hopf so famously said,

“Hard times produce strong people. Strong people produce good times. Good times create weak people. Weak people create hard times.”

Warren Buffet says it even more vividly: “only when the tide goes do you discover who’s been swimming naked.”

This crisis has left billions of people around the globe exposed. We have been riding the long and prosperous wave that it has possibly left us complacent and unprepared for the life that isn’t as comfortable and glamorous as we would like. However, just as historically there have wartime leaders and there have been peacetime leaders, it's time for us as a Babson community to be entrepreneurial thinkers and doers in times of crisis.

Take the example of David Zamarin ’19, an extremely accomplished Babson alumni who founded his company Detrapel while at Babson, appeared on Shark Tank, and maintains a strong presence in the community. David's company, which typically manufactures a proprietary, non-toxic spray that makes nearly all surfaces waterproof and stain-resistant, has shifted its focus to assist in this time of massive need. David has worked tirelessly with his team to develop a product called DetraPel ecoClear and Disinfectant that kills viruses and bacteria such as the COVID-19. A massive added value in a time where cleaning supplies and disinfectants are running at all-time lows.

These actions demonstrate the Babson spirit to create change where change is needed in a proactive and entrepreneurial way that benefits people and the planet while creating value for personal profit. Like David, many people in the community have stepped up to lead social media campaigns and put in massive effort into new concepts and ideas they haven’t yet tried. Campus traditions like SGA elections (Student Government Association) have carried on and taken a new perspective through funny memes and creative videos.

As a community, we all must consider how we are going to step up and be leaders throughout this crisis. There is already enough tragic news broadcasted every minute, and there is no better time than to reflect upon President Spinelli’s question about what an entrepreneurial leadership looks like in a crisis and to go out and do this in our own lives.

By Eric Lindholm

The views expressed herein are attributed to their authors and not to this publication nor Babson College. The materials appearing in this publication are for information purposes only.