What is Leadership?
There are many definitions provided by leading experts. The dictionary.com definition is very simply the action of leading a group of people or organization.
One of our local business leaders in Detroit, Nancy Schlichtling, CEO of one of the largest hospital organizations in the country, Henry Ford Health System, defines leadership like this: The essence of leadership is to create a great environment for people to reach their full potential.
The definition of entrepreneurial leadership (Wikipedia) is slightly different:organizing a group of people to achieve a common goal using proactive entrepreneurial behavior by optimizing risk, innovating to take advantage of opportunities, taking personal responsibility and managing change within a dynamic environment for the benefit of the organization.
Entrepreneurs, Leaders and Business Owners
However you define leadership, many people assume that if you are a business owner, you necessarily possess entrepreneurial traits – and that all entrepreneurs are natural leaders. Not exactly.
There are a multitude of introverted business owners who may not consider themselves “leaders”. Few business leaders are born, but leadership skills can be learned. Likewise, there may be many employees within an organization who think like entrepreneurs.
Qualities that both business owners and entrepreneurial leaders must possess include:
- Vision: A clear picture of where you are headed and what it will take to get there.
- Dissatisfaction with the present: Never content with “the way it’s always been done”; not afraid of disruption; always looking to innovate.
- The ability to make friends & influence people: leaders must be able to communicate their vision and recruit supporters.
- Flexibility & adaptation: There’s a reason “the best laid plans…” is a saying. Since the only constant is change, entrepreneurial leaders need to be ready to continually adapt to their environment.
- Accountability: While it’s important that entrepreneurial leaders trust their gut, it’s just as important to own their mistakes and move on (they’ll happen, no matter what!).
- Authenticity: You are who you are; it’s very obvious to employees and customers when a leader does not believe the message they’re conveying. Be as “real” and transparent as possible.
- Fearlessness: Understand the advantages you possess – then don’t be afraid to take full advantage! Entrepreneurs use the skills & resources they have to build their business.
- Persistence: This quality cannot be understated; entrepreneurs face nay-sayers and a seemingly endless stream of obstacles. Leaders must persistently and relentlessly follow their vision.
In Part 2 we’ll discuss ways in which entrepreneurial leaders build and organization, and how they can ensure long-term sustainability.