What I Have Learnt about Leadership
I have been an entrepreneur all of my life but I think I have only been a leader for the last few weeks. It is a strange shift and one that I think many of us couldn't benefit from understanding.
I look back on the last five years and can now spot a significant number of tiny shifts in my thinking that over time have taken me from a charismatic extrovert full of ideas, ambition and aspiration to someone that can lead a team and grow a business.
My personal opinion is that so many of the qualities that drive us to be entrepreneurs contradict the qualities needed by great and effective leaders. In my experience, being entrepreneurial was certainly the easy part and came almost naturally to me. Leadership has, and I believe will continue to be a challenge and something I will need to continually invest in to ensure my team and my business are able to grow effectively.
To be an entrepreneur, I believe you need to be innovative, creative, risk averse and hard working. You need to be relentless, determined and for the most, naturally charismatic and engaging. You need to have total belief in yourself and need the strength to ignore those who believe your dream isn't possible, who question your ideas or those that hope you take the safe road. Yet to be a leader you need to be humble and attentive, considered and focused. You need to listen to the people that question your ideas, you need to inspire and motivate those who don't believe you can make your dreams a reality and comfort those who care enough to wish you would take the easier option. The two roles are very different yet are often expected and required to go hand in hand.
For me, the shift in thinking boiled down to accountability. It sounds so simple and something many entrepreneurs, who are ultimately looking to create their own economy and take control of their own destiny, are assumed to have.
Yet being accountable actually means so much more than that. Being accountable means taking responsibility for every single action you take and as the leader of a business that means you have to take responsibility for the actions of your team, consumers and clients as well.
I have been in many situations where I have blamed my team, my suppliers or my clients for things not going my way, as I had planned or simply working out in my favour. I think I became a leader when I realised that if my team don't perform it is my responsibility for I have either failed to recruit the correct people, failed to teach them, motivate them or manage their challenges and frustrations. If we have a cash flow problem it is not the fault of my clients for not paying on time, they never do, it’s my fault for not having a plan B and if I don't win a pitch it isn't the worlds fault for not working out my way, its mine - for not preparing, researching or delivering the deal properly.
It’s incredibly challenging to be truly accountable and often, your work has an implication on your personal and professional life, your mood, emotions and ultimately your happiness. You will often need to manage, motivate and understand others whilst having no one that is able to do the same for you. You will need to be prepared to be lonely and able to find motivation, a solution and optimism in the most challenging of circumstances and amongst stress, anxiety and pressure find the control to remain calm, understanding and approachable.
It makes me realise that being a leader is much more challenging than being an entrepreneur but absolutely essential to the development and growth of you and your business. My belief is that it is not something that will 'just happen' to very few of us but more a series of shifts, tweaks and changes that happen in our mind over time. It makes me think back to the question 'are entrepreneurs born or bred' and my conclusion is that entrepreneurs can be born but entrepreneurial leaders are bred - and my belief is that it is a task only a few have the courage and stamina to survive.