In today’s climate, a successful entrepreneur is one who can operate at an ever-increasing rate of change. To manage this change, you must institute a dynamic, flexible organization within your business, one that finds a balance between innovation and stability, between comfort and chaos, between uncertainty and permanence.
As your business grows, you must continually optimize your creativity and passion in order to stay relevant, but create a steadfastness that your team can rely upon. Challenges like these are the fuel for entrepreneurial creativity.
You are a creative thinker; one who sees the potential for what may be. You think beyond bottom-line concerns, always looking forward, ready to expand to the next level. You will confront many hurdles as you initiate your ideas and build the team that you need to support it.
Developing Your Leadership Presence
Too many entrepreneurs believe everyone “who matters” will buy into their vision; that those who don’t simply must be left behind. Having a powerful vision is one thing - being able to communicate it and create the engagement you need to build a successful business is quite another thing entirely.
Most business plans and business development processes focus on productivity, sales, marketing, and financial structures. Creating a solid foundation for your business, one that will withstand the test of time, requires that you incorporate at least one more focus: the development of the relational skills that you will need to engage your team.
Your new role, as a business leader, is to create and maintain morale and engagement. Without solid morale, productivity goes out the window .
Without engagement from your team, it’s only a matter of time before your company not only stalls, but also struggles to survive.
Creativity. Flow. Structure.
How will you channel it? How will you engage your team, align them with your mission? How will they stay connected, especially when the process is likely to be stressful?
In the old days, a “carrot-or-stick” management approach - increasing wages, or threatening dismissal (whether implicit or explicit) - was common and popular. People work for money, don’t they? But, today, people work for so much more. They work for life balance, for purpose, and for meaning. Building a resilient business that supports innovation, vitality, and personal growth is the new normal.
You must possess the skills to look within yourself, to explore your own patterns, your previous background and experience (both personal and professional).
Looking internally, understanding how you created your sense of identity, and what changes you need to make, are vital to the development of a strong leader.
Successful leadership stems from a place of self-knowledge. You must be in a conscious, mindful place. Leaders must have the ability to use language - including tonality - effectively. They must not only have a clear vision of the future, but also what the work will be, and how the team can work together to meet expectations.
Communication and trust are vital for harmony within any system, whether business or personal. It is essential to manage and improve what are often considered the “soft skills” (which are so much harder to learn than technical skills) required for leading team dynamics.
From process and structure to communication tools, conflict resolution, and managing relationships: these are the mechanisms you must employ to create a powerful, sustainable business.
Your New Character Traits
Successful entrepreneurs, who transition into strong leaders, develop and hone the following foundational character traits :
A guiding vision that clearly defines what you want (both personally and professionally), as well as the strength and resilience to persist despite setbacks and failure.
A passion for what you do, how you do it, and the ability to communicate it in a way that inspires others.
Integrity: being accountable to match your words and behaviour to your vision, deep self-knowledge, candour, and maturity.
The ability to create and maintain trust by being constant, congruent with your words, and reliable for your team.
Intense curiosity, to learn as much as you can, and the willingness to take risks, be daring, innovative, and experimental.
Your New Leadership Style
Your strong leadership style will blend your new character traits with these effective abilities:
Clearly articulate what you want.
Determine whether your team understands what you are asking, and to change your communication to ensure that they do. A key to that is ensuring that people's roles match their talents and motivations, that they are clearly defined and include their input.
Determine the action plan which needs to be created to enact your stated goals.
Understand the differences between your motivation as the CEO and the actual skills your team needs to carry out tasks, staying both motivated and engaged.
It is your professional responsibility to also become a boundary manager between the internal workings of your team, and the turbulent seas of the outside world of economics and social change. You are the filter, determining what information your business and your team needs to sustain and grow itself, and what information can be reviewed and set aside for future contemplation.
Conflict is inevitable - it’s part of life. We have all been involved in differences that result in stressful, and at times, seemingly irreconcilable differences. Often, these moments are unexpected, as we are surprised when it turns out that others are not like us. We easily fail to notice those differences that can lead to conflict.
Brain research indicates that when conflict becomes too stressful, the executive function of our brain goes offline, and more reactive aspects of our psycho-neurology and animal nature become active. Our mature thinking drops off, and we act in ways that we often regret.
Relationships are at the centre of any successful business, so we can expect conflict within the complexity of our teams.
Successful business leaders must develop skills to manage conflict. De-escalating conflict means separating people from problems. You must develop the ability to focus on:
Interests, not positions
Options for mutual gain
Agreement on objective criteria (ground rules for engagement, respect, listening, time-outs, generosity)
Three systems interplay in any conflict: our brain (hardware, embodied, relational); our mind (our consciousness beyond the brain); and our interpersonal relationship skills (curiosity, listening, mirroring). While conflicts are never easy, they are inescapable and can be managed effectively, allowing for smooth transitions and closer team relationships.
Learning how to manage conflicts often results in:
Improved alignment between theory and reality
Improved productivity through increased morale
Effective team communication
Increasing mutual respect
Better decision making with full information and greater team buy-in
An increase in the team’s sense of security about the future
Open resolutions to key issues and strengthened trust
Teams that are well-equipped with the ability to address new challenges, transitions, and change
True entrepreneurial leadership comes from walking your talk and clear communication. It’s ensuring your team understands that you are accountable for your words and your behaviour, and that everyone on every level of your team is held to the same high standards. It’s creating a vision and purpose that all team members can engage with, believe in, and strive towards together.
Ian Macnaughton, MBA, Ph.D., FEA
Ian advises families in business and families of wealth, and is a treasured mentor to Admin Slayer’s CEO. He is a Fellow of the Family Firm Institute, associate faculty member of City University (Vancouver site) and has taught at numerous universities and colleges, both undergraduate and graduate, in psychology and business. Ian is a published author, widely experienced business owner, and a trusted voice around the world in business, counselling, and personal growth.