As an entrepreneur, you need to develop a certain set of skills. You need to be able to show off your elevator pitch, wear a whole bunch of different hats, and easily step in and fill any roll in your burgeoning organization.
When your business successfully takes off, your role changes. While the skills necessary to being a great leader and a great entrepreneur certainly have some cross-over, they're far from the same. Today, let's talk about what skills leaders need, and how they can grow out of the skills that you've developed to succeed at entrepreneurship.
As an entrepreneur, you needed to know a little bit of everything, and know every piece of what was happening in your business pie. To successfully transition into leadership, you need to approach things differently. As your organization grows, doing it all is impossible. You need to be able to delegate tasks out to other employees, and you need to do it in a way that makes sense. At first, you'll probably feel like you're slacking off, but truly, you're developing important skills. Start with the tasks you really don't enjoy, or that benefit from an expert's touch, like accounting or marketing.
When you're gathering investors or building your launch team, you spend a lot of time convincing people that you have what it takes to go the distance, and to become one of the startups that lasts for more than 18 months.
As your business begins to develop and expand, however, the people skills you use being to change. You become a force for inspiration, a reason that people come to work enthused and excited about the job they're doing. You need to pass your vision on to your employees, and convince them that it's just as amazing as you think it is. They need to be inspired by you, and your vision, so that they can work with you to achieve it.
As an entrepreneur, it isn't all that necessary to reflect on your own skill set, especially if you're lucky, and your first business succeeds. As a leader, constant self reflection is necessary, if you want to continue to grow and change. You need to constantly evaluate your own skills, how they're influencing the employees in your immediate sphere, and how those employees are spreading your vision on to your customers. You need to be willing to understand your strengths and your weaknesses, so that you can compensate for these things in your business. Without self reflection, your business won't succeed.
Know Your Why
There are two kinds of why you need to understand in order to succeed in leadership. First, you need a solid understanding of your own personal why. Why are you driven to succeed in business, why do you want to bring this product or service to market, why do you feel that you are the best possible person to achieve this goal?
Second, you also need to understand the whys of your business. Why is your business going to succeed, why are customers going to choose you, why is your marketing the most compelling and interesting out there? These whys are crucial for understanding and directing your business as you move forward.
Entrepreneurs are generally passionate about their ideas. Leaders need to be passionate about everything. When you meet with accounting, accounting is the most fascinating thing in the world for the length of that meeting. Same for marketing, customer retention, and sales. Regardless of your personal feelings about any of these departments, a great leader has the ability to rapidly shift gears and understand the reasons that each key department are necessary for business. You need to help those who are passionate about the business's accounting, for example, know that you as the leader are just as invested in their success as they are.
Without the ability to transition your passion and share it with your employees, you'll end up with departments that believe you underestimate their importance, which will lead to less effectiveness in their work. People perform at their best when they believe their contributions are valuable and noticed.
If you look down this list and end up deciding that you are cut out more for entrepreneurship than leadership, there's nothing wrong with that. There are many entrepreneurs who start with an exit strategy of creating a business so it can be sold down the road.
But if you truly want to lead a company, becoming the next great mind in the world of business, tech, development, or whatever fuels your passion, it's worth considering the best path to get there.
What advice would you give to an entrepreneur taking their first steps into leadership?