GLOBAL CEO, ENTREPRENEUR, PROFESSOR, AND MENTOR

January 19, 2014
Startup White Board

Back With More to Offer

I am back, with a new website and a new book, Startup Leadership. I had to write the book because there are some big misconceptions about how leadership applies to startups, and entrepreneurship in general (that’s the little ‘e’ entrepreneurship as described in an earlier post). In my book I talk about how leadership is the critical ingredient to entrepreneurial success, defined as the ability to take an idea and turn it into a self-sustaining enterprise (e.g. a new company or a new department inside an existing corporation). Entrepreneurial leadership is the most difficult form of leadership because it imposes additional, often contradictory constraints on a leader. First, an entrepreneurial leader must simultaneously be both selfish and selfless. Successful entrepreneurs must embrace their selfish motivations to change the world, but they cannot let that get in the way of being a good leader. Since leaders are always people that make their followers feel they will be successful (otherwise, why follow?), successful leaders must always be selfless. Creating and sustaining this fine balance requires mastering the five skills of entrepreneurial leadership described below. Additionally, entrepreneurs start off with few people, if any, caring whether they will be successful. Entrepreneurs rarely have any constituency supporting them and they must recruit virtually all their followers. Without people willing to change their lives for the entrepreneur, he has no leverage and no one to lead. So all successful entrepreneurial leaders learn how to get people to feel excited by their ideas to the point where they stop what they are doing in order to follow them.

My book deals with how entrepreneurs can transform themselves into the entrepreneurial leaders they need to be in order to be successful. It starts at the basic level of describing exactly what motivations and skills are required of virtually every entrepreneurial leader (EL), past, present, or future.

My book deals with how entrepreneurs can transform themselves into the entrepreneurial leaders they need to be in order to be successful. It starts at the basic level of describing exactly what motivations and skills are required of virtually every entrepreneurial leader (EL), past, present, or future. The good news is that there are only 5 skills required and virtually anyone with a strong enough motivation is capable of mastering these skills. Four of these skills apply generally to all leaders: self-awareness, relationship building, motivating others, and leading change. The fifth skill applies uniquely to entrepreneurial leaders: understanding how enterprises work and what enterprises require of their leader. EL’s cannot be naïve about what is expected of them. Most entrepreneurs fail while most entrepreneurial leaders master all five skills only after suffering through several personal, entrepreneurial, and leadership catastrophes. I know that all this waste, anxiety, and failure is not necessary. My experience and the experience of others indicates an EL can avoid many of these crises by just mastering these 5 skills before they are otherwise needed. I call the process of strategizing how to gain the needed skills a Personal Leadership Strategy (PLS). Putting together and holding oneself accountable to a PLS will save every entrepreneur time, money, and grief.

The second half of Startup Leadership discusses how some combination of these skills can be used to avert very common entrepreneurial failure modes: poor hiring and firing, ineffective teams, unrealistic strategies, dysfunctional organizations, and finally, surviving the inevitable crises.

Very little is written about entrepreneurial leadership, these five skills, and how to avoid these very common failure modes. Much of the dialog in entrepreneurship today is focused on how to get your first customer, and how to create and validate your business model. Some excellent books are available that describe how to find your first customers and how to create and validate your business model. But these books only get you so far. They can get you your first customers and they can make sure you have a rational business model, but they cannot help you understand how to get people to want to change their lives to help you be successful. These great books cannot help you understand what are the most important things to focus upon in order to create an effective strategy and to execute effectively. My mission is therefore for Startup Leadership and subsequent dereklidow.com blog posts to fill the entrepreneurial leadership knowledge and experience void.


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