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Entrepreneurs, ambition and “sense of mission”

Carlos Rey

Many managers and academics feel deep admiration for “visionary” entrepreneurs, those who are moved by ambition and nonconformity. In manuals for successful entrepreneurs, it is quite common to read the statement that ambition is one of the distinctive features all entrepreneurs should have. Nevertheless, quite often it is not taken into account that successful entrepreneurs, while coming up with ambitious challenges, also tend to have a strong “sense of mission”.


In the case of Steve Jobs, probably one of the most significant entrepreneurs of our time, ambition was the key to success in his projects, but the passion he felt for his work from a transcendental perspective was just as important. Jobs believed that, more than being number one, or the best, it was more important to do things that changed the world; that really improved people’s lives.


A good example of this is the anecdote about how Jobs encouraged John Sculley, then President of Pepsico, to join Apple.

Jobs’ entrepreneurial paradigm is not an isolated case. In a broad study carried out with 2,700 senior and middle managers from 65 companies in different sectors carried out by the Management by Missions, Chair in our Faculty of Business Studies, we were able to see that the “sense of mission” is highly correlated to the ambition to learn and innovate, which is nothing more than developing new things.


ambition + mission = persistence


In entrepreneurs, this equation is even more evident and can determine success or failure. The mission enables concrete goals to be set time and time again, failure to be overcome and the possibility to start again when necessary. For entrepreneurs, ambition is the pole that allows them to jump to places others have not reached and the “sense of mission” is the supporting point for this jump.


According to Juan Antonio Pérez López people don’t work only for money (extrinsic motivation) or for personal satisfaction and ambition (intrinsic motivation), but also need to imbue our work with a “sense of mission” (transcendental motivation), meaning understanding why and for whom we do things, seeing their social transcendentalism, and giving human action a meaning and ambition in the long-term. According to this author, transcendental motivation is the main motivation and the most important one in terms of understanding others and ourselves and can impact all individual motivation positively, moving people towards greater efforts.


That is why, to foster entrepreneurship in society, at school, university, in business schools, professional associations, companies, the first step is to generate a strong “sense of mission” in each and every person: Who am I and what is my own personal contribution? From there it is all about stimulating a healthy nonconformity that is able to generate something new, it is about encouraging entrepreneurs who are able to combine “ambition” with a “ sense of mission”. It is also about creating virtuous circles that encourage them to fight with determination in order to achieve what others have not yet achieved.


* Carlos Rey  DPM Consulting Managing Partner Director of Missions for the Chair of Management and Corporate Governance, UIC




1. Rey, C. y Mas, M. (2013) “Mission based motivation: Relationship with extrinsic and intrinsic motivation”. GIKA, Global innovation and knowledge academy. ISBN: 978-84-616-0275-9.

2. Pérez López, J.A. (1993) “Fundamentos de la dirección de empresas”. Rialp, Madrid.

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