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07.24.14

What it Takes to be an Entrepreneurial Leader



Leadership
If success for entrepreneurial success is to get your enterprise to the point where it is self-sustainable, then most people fail.

But they don’t have to.

Given the proper skills and insights, most entrepreneurs can become successful or what Derek Lidow calls entrepreneurial leaders. He discusses these ideas in Startup Leadership and is based on his popular course at Princeton University.

Enterprises go through four stages of maturity—customer validation (a product or service that someone is willing to pay for), operational validation (deliver and satisfy the customers), financial validation (financial security under changing market and competitive conditions), self-sustainability (creating a process of innovation that enables the enterprises to be renewed)—and entrepreneurial leaders must grow with them. Stage four should not require the founder.

To be able to meet the needs of the enterprise, the entrepreneur must be able to demonstrate five skills, consistently in high-stress situations: self-awareness, facility with the basics of the business, relationship building, motivation, and leading change. Lidow says that an entrepreneurial leader does not need to be the best in each of these skills but shout have mastered them to the point that they are beyond simply competent.

Self-awareness is the key and probably the hardest of them all. It is crucial to get this right because personal accountability is an extension of it. In any situation, but certainly when a crisis occurs, entrepreneurial leaders “ask themselves how they need to change to make the situation better, not how to get everyone around them to act more like them.” Lidow continues, “Self-awareness is important in times of crisis, to the extent that it helps entrepreneurs understand that their traits, motivations, and skills make them vulnerable to repeatedly making certain types of mistakes. Without this level of self-awareness they are unprepared to change and do not recognize when they make crises worse.” And you see this very thing played out from time to time in organizations because some leaders are more concerned about being the leader than they are about the growth and survival of the organization. Which bring us to another point Lidow makes.

He says that all entrepreneurs are selfish. Initially it’s all about you. And it’s understandable because entrepreneurship is far more demanding and requires greater sacrifices than many imagine. But you have to be selfish enough to be selfless. That means that you need to be dispassionate enough to do what is right for the business even if it isn’t your personal preference. You serve the business—not the other way around.

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Startup Leadership has valuable ideas to help you rethink how you approach your business or even a business unit within a larger organization. The section on building relationships is especially helpful for understanding how an entrepreneurial leader ultimately makes it all work. Enlisting the help of others is critical.

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