New initiative to create better entrepreneurs

Leadership: Entrepreneurs have a history of underprioritising the importance of strong leadership. CBS and the Danish Industry Foundation are now joining forces to focus on leadership in start-ups.


lederskab i startup-virksomheder

Less than every second start-up survives the first five years. However, the likelihood of the company making the cut increases with strong leadership.

Yet leadership and leadership development have been somewhat underprioritised by entrepreneurs even though several studies show that personal challenges and an unhealthy work culture with long days and unclear workflows can cause many start-ups to close again.

With financial support from the Danish Industry Foundation, CBS is now going to offer a personal leadership development programme to entrepreneurs who have started hiring staff for their newly established businesses. The aim is to give companies a better chance of survival and exploiting their growth potential.

The upcoming project is called "CBS Startup Leadership Initiative" and will include both research-based teaching and coaching from leaders with practical experience to share. The programme will be anchored by the Copenhagen School of Entrepreneurship at CBS.

Entrepreneurship leadership is different

"The conditions of leadership in the entrepreneurial environment often differ significantly from leadership elsewhere. In start-ups, founders are leaders although they typically identify more with the role of an entrepreneur. They often focus on the business idea, strategy, product and customers. Whereas the leader of an established company is hired to fill the leadership role", Mia Jung explains.

Mia is Head of Leadership Development at the Copenhagen School of Entrepreneurship and is the coordinator of the project.

"In a start-up, the organisational framework is often fluid. When the company begins to grow a little and hire staff, a fixed corporate culture has not yet been established. The leaders build the plane while flying and do usually not have any experience from previous jobs to draw on, so the entire company becomes vulnerable", Mia Jung elaborates.

With the "CBS Startup Leadership Initiative ", she hopes that the entrepreneurial environment will focus more on the link between strong leadership and the ability to attract and retain good employees as well as the understanding that a good idea and a friendly financial advisor are not the only important factors.

The Danish Industry Foundation will contribute

With a donation of almost 9 million kroner, the Danish Industry Foundation has made it possible to launch the upcoming project, which is planned to provide 200 entrepreneurs with new leadership tools.

"Innovative entrepreneurs are a source of growth and competitiveness in the Danish business community. It would be a shame if good ideas, groundbreaking business models and promising startups fail simply because of a lack of leadership skills. For this reason, we would like to contribute to ensuring that leaders in the startup environment get help to develop themselves," says Thomas Hofman-Bang, CEO of the Danish Industry Foundation.

The first growth entrepreneurs will be enrolled in the leadership programme in early 2023. At the same time, the ambition is that the research results and experiences from the programme can be disseminated to the broad start-up environment in Denmark to help future entrepreneurs to focus more on growing through leadership.

"A special strategic focus area at CBS is leadership research and teaching. This applies to many forms of leadership and management, including innovation and entrepreneurship management. In this ambitious partnership with the Danish Industry Foundation, we will bring research-based knowledge and practical experience into the startup environment. We know that the early growth phase is a critical phase for companies, and that there is a great need for strong leadership skills," says Nikolaj Malchow-Møller, President of CBS.

Project objectives:

  • The CBS Startup Leadership Initiative is a personal leadership development programme for promising startup founders with staff responsibilities at the scaling stage.
  • The programme aims to create more competitive growth startups that develop a greater leadership capacity to manage, organise, attract and retain talented employees.
The page was last edited by: Sekretariat for Ledelse og Kommunikation // 07/11/2023