Why am I talking about qualities of a great entrepreneurial leader? Because I spent a lot of time working in management, and I have seen a lot of managers. At first when I went for my Master’s I thought I really wanted to study Human Resources. The thought behind it was that people in Human Resources were looking out for the best interests of the employees. A few years working in Corporate America quickly flipped that idea on its head. I realized that Human Resources often functions as an extension of the legal department. It’s meant to protect the interests of the company and ensure that the employees don’t sue them. So I got my Master’s in management instead.
One of the great things about getting a Master’s in management, paired with actually working and getting real life experience in Corporate America, is that you quickly see how the theory starts to break down. I spent a couple of years studying and reading text books about what management key functions are. But it wasn’t until I worked with others that I understood the intrinsic behaviors necessary for leadership to be effective.
There are four key things that I think make a great entrepreneurial leader. These things come from my experience working as a manager being managed by C-suite executives. I also learned a lot through trial and error as I created core competency rubrics for hundreds of leaders in the education sector. This pulls on extensive research and reading and books about management and leadership, including texts written by Stephen Covey, Dale Carnegie, Jim Collins and others.
The first thing that I think is critical for any quality leader or manager is a high degree of self-awareness. This means they have to have a good sense of who they are, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Because you can capitalize on those to help others grow as a leader.
The other thing that’s critical about understanding your strengths is being very cognizant of where your limitations are. When I worked in corporate we spent time looking at things like strengths-based leadership and workplace personality assessments like MBTI. Or my personal favorite, DiSC, which is based off of research from the Gallup Institute. It showcases how we can use our strengths in collaboration with others to create powerful teams. Knowing your strengths is only half of the battle. You also have to be very cognizant of your skill gaps.
As a leader one of the beautiful things is you can hire teammates and colleagues to fill your skill gaps. This is what makes for the most powerful teams. A leader who is aware of both their strongest capabilities as well as their edges is able to be well-rounded. So they can put together a team and a unit that’s able to be highly effective.
With entrepreneurship, one of the scariest things that many solopreneurs have to deal with is building out a fresh team. When you’re starting from scratch there may be an expectation to knock it out of the park the first time. But the first step is of course recognizing where your capabilities are. And also locating misses so you know who you’re looking for as you round out your superstar team.
2. Emotional Intelligence
The next hallmark of any great leader or manager is going to be emotional intelligence and empathy. This is a group of skills that focuses on how well you’re able to read people and empathize with their position. Great leaders do this and demonstrate this skill by their innate curiosity about other human beings. They don’t make assumptions and instead lead with questions and dialogue to get to the root cause of any issue or performance challenge. This comes into play when we think about entrepreneurship because CEOs and C-level execs especially are constantly acting as the face of the organization. How well you’re able to understand the issues, concerns and challenges of ideal clients, potential partners, referral partners, and future collaborators, helps you determine where there might be a good fit or a mismatch.
This comes up frequently when we think about finding our ideal or target client. You’re looking for people whose point of view and perspective you can understand so that you can meet them where they are in order to provide the highest and most effective level of service.
3. Effective Communication
3rd Hallmark of a great leader (and I hope this doesn’t come as any surprise to anyone) is effective communication. Great entrepreneurial leaders have a high degree of self-awareness, and knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses. The possess an innate ability to empathize and understand the perspectives of others. AND they are also very adept at communicating those things as it pertains to their goals and needs. These folks who excel in leadership do so because they communicate their ideas clearly. They are good at sending messages but they’re also good at receiving.
A great leader is engaged in active listening and are pulling all of their skills in that conversation, whether written or spoken. This means listening not just with your ears, or in written communication with your eyes, but also checking for tone, body language, and reading nonverbal messages as part of how you receive information from others. This rich level of communication allows for more in-depth collaboration for all stakeholders.
Finally, the 4th hallmark of a great entrepreneurial leader is integrity. This one is huge. I’m not just talking about being honest. I’m talking about staying true to your values and mission in everything that you do. This means that if something is not in alignment with what you believe, you have no issue rejecting it or moving on to another idea. But it also carries with it a degree of vulnerability and transparency around ideas, concepts or knowledge that you don’t yet know. Your ability to be in integrity with your team and those who are in your immediate environment allows you access to greater information in order to meet your goals. If you don’t know, ask. If it doesn’t resonate, trust that.
Which hallmark are you focused on growing as an entrepreneurial leader?
These 4 key skill sets can be even further expanded when we look at some of the essentials for managers and leaders across the board. To find out more about essential traits of managers and how to bring them to life in your business or for your team check out my Udemy course, Manager Essentials