Entrepreneurs need many different skills to get things done. If you hadn’t already heard about this before starting a business, it’s something you’ll realize soon enough.
This stems from the nature of a business as a system involving multiple moving parts. From products to people, consumers to shareholders, and outside factors and trends, each element you need to consider can interact with many others.
Managing this system is therefore an inherently complicated task. And growth, which is a desirable outcome of success, only compounds that challenge.
The good news is that there’s one skill you emphasize above the rest. You can delegate finance and accounting to a virtual CFO, do likewise with marketing and creative needs, and definitely have an assistant take over email duties. But you have to embrace honing your leadership skills.
Research has shown that leadership is one of the most high-impact ways an entrepreneur can improve performance. An effective hands-on management style goes well beyond simply telling people what to do.
Leadership in any context is always about influencing others to achieve a common goal. But entrepreneurial leadership incorporates risk management, development opportunities, ownership, and handling change within a dynamic setting. It’s specifically suited to the complexity of business environments and may even apply to similar situations in other organizations.
Good entrepreneurial leaders have a strategic approach towards managing people, and they execute that with a level of nuance that lets it be tailored on an individual level. They give feedback that’s timely and necessary, intervening before serious errors occur but giving people room to fail and grow.
Done properly, this keeps people motivated and engaged, which in turn drives performance and retention. In other words, you get your people to operate more effectively instead of taking on an ever-growing share of the workload.
Overcoming a fixed mindset
Most entrepreneurs comprehend the need for leadership on some level. Unless you’re running a business of one, you know that you have to deal with people and get subordinates to perform at a high level.
The problem is that many people have a fixed mindset. This is true even of otherwise growth-minded entrepreneurs when it comes to leadership. They see it as an attribute, not a skill. Consequently, they attempt to ‘lead by example’ by taking on the lion’s share of work, refusing to delegate anything of importance.
This might get the job done, but it’s a narrow and ineffective way to lead. And it raises serious questions about sustainability in the long term. How are you ever going to free up your own time and energy and learn to trust people with responsibility if you never give them the chance to take ownership?
Working on a complex skill
Developing entrepreneurial leadership requires understanding its nature as a complex skill. We have different competencies that make up our leadership quality.
Some people have an innate gift across these competencies. But everyone can work on improving them. And you can focus on the specific competencies that have been identified as having the greatest impact.
Communicate openly and have high ethical standards, creating a safe environment where people are encouraged to speak up, be creative and innovative. Empower them to self-organize towards the goals you set. Empathize and listen, showing that you’re open to new ideas and encouraging each individual’s ambition and growth.
These things are hard to improve because they often run contrary to our hardwired psychological needs for control and avoiding risks. Seek feedback on how you’re doing as a leader, and maybe get a mentor or a coach to stay accountable and ensure you’re on the right track.