The Key Dimensions of Entrepreneurial Leadership

In the dictionary, an entrepreneur is defined as a person who sets up a business taking on financial risks in the hope of profit. A leader is defined as a person who is in charge of a group, organisation or country. So an entrepreneurial leader would effectively mean a person who has started a business with a vision, employed his own funds and leads a team in pursuit of the common goal. Not all entrepreneurial leaders succeed in their pursuits. Indeed, many businesses crash within a year or two. So what is it that separates the men from the boys? What is so special about those entrepreneurial leaders who see their business soar high on the flight of their imagination? A study of several successful businesses and their leaders would reveal a few key dimensions which are common and contributory to their success. Let us analyse a few of the key dimensions of entrepreneurial leadership.

Knowing yourself – 

Entrepreneurial leaders have a clear understanding of who they are and what is meaningful to them. They have a well-defined purpose in life and work. They are aware of their business purpose and a broad idea of how they wish to move forward. They understand how their businesses fit into their industry and their society. Those possessing entrepreneurial leadership qualities are also aware that they would need other like-minded people to form a great team in the absence of which the goals would remain a dream.

Focusing on the who before the what –

A good leader focuses first on what to do but a great leader focuses on building the right team first. Like Jim Collins says in his book Good to Great, great entrepreneurial leaders make sure they have the right people on the bus and the right people in the key seats before deciding where to drive the bus. Building the right team is a battle half won and is a great leadership quality to possess. It is so important to find round pegs for the round holes so that the team is able to align with the common goal and move forward as one well-oiled machine.

Having a clear vision  of the future –

Successful entrepreneurial leadership demands that you have a clear  vision of what you want to do and where you want to be in future.It is important to be able to think several steps ahead and not be limited by a  short term view. Successful entrepreneurs never take the short cut. They prefer to have a clear long term vision well into the future and move towards that goal steadily. They are futuristic in their outlook and never suffer from short sightedness. They prefer to suffer in the short term but are seldom distracted from long term goals. The case of successful visionary Jeff Bezos who founded Amazon is a clear case in point. He was way ahead of his time when he started the company but is now reaping the full benefits of that remarkable vision.

Great Communication Skills –

Once the right people are in place, it is important to define the vision as clearly and concisely as possible. Clear articulation of vision is a common trait found in successful entrepreneurial leadership. The vision is clearly defined in his mind and well articulated to his team so that they are aligned towards a shared goal. Both verbal and written communication skills are important for a great entrepreneur as it helps to express views clearly and inspire the team to share the vision and work towards it in a coordinated manner.

Adaptability –

It is great to have a clear vision but it is also important to remember that we live in a dynamic business environment where disruptions can lead to paradigm shifts overnight. A key dimension of great entrepreneurial leadership is the ability to embrace this uncertainty and be ready to adapt to a changing world. It is this characteristic which helps them survive amidst disruptions by being able to think on their feet and adjust their vision to changed ground realities. You can take the example of Youtube or Facebook which have adapted well to changing business needs.

Continuous Learning –

While research shows that more than 95% entrepreneurial leaders have a formal education, history is also filled with examples of geniuses like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs who left their education midway to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. However, learning is a continuous process and never really stops for leaders who are always on the lookout for something new to learn. Especially in a fast changing world, replete with uncertainty and disruptions, no leader can afford to rest on past knowledge. It is imperative to keep in touch with the latest knowledge and industry developments, consumer behaviour, global events etc. It is also important to remember that all decisions may not be successful. It is important to learn from business failures as well and to convert them into learning opportunities.

Create an atmosphere conducive to growth –

Entrepreneurial leaders, in general, possess a deep understanding of the vital role which other team members play in the success of the organisation. Such leaders create an atmosphere that encourages everyone to participate, share ideas, thrive and grow. They actively seek opinions from team members and encourage them to come up with creative solutions for the problems they face. They promote an environment of brainstorming and thinking outside the box which allows free exchange of ideas. The entrepreneurial leader also grooms his subordinates because he knows that he cannot do everything on his own and needs to groom the next line of executives.

In conclusion, we can safely say that the key dimensions of entrepreneurial leadership involves integrity of purpose, a keen sense of self belief, a clear vision, great people and communication skills, a flair for taking calculated risks, an ability to learn continuously and adapt to change whenever the situation demands. As Steve Jobs would put it,”Let’s go invent tomorrow instead of worrying about what happened yesterday.” That’s the essence of entrepreneurial leadership at its very best.

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