How to Be an Entrepreneurial Leader

How to be an entrepreneurial leader

What does it mean to be an entrepreneurial leader? Are you one of them?

Through years of working with students, executives, and conducting research, it has become clear to me that being an entrepreneurial leader is about applying an entrepreneurial mindset to how you lead.

Being an entrepreneurial leader requires an openness to learning, to inviting opportunity in, and motivating and mobilizing others in the organization to do the same. It’s like any other competency you’re trying to build—you have to start not only with the desire to change but with a commitment to practice.

Think of your leadership instincts as an ice cube. Things seem pretty well formed. In order to change, you’ll need to let that ice melt just a bit, then adopt new behaviors and build new instincts.

Focus on Opportunity

An entrepreneurial leader is observant of their surroundings. They talk to people, they look at situations and they read and see between the lines. You’ve heard it as “out-of-the-box thinking” but it’s more than that. It doesn’t take a brilliant creative mind to be an entrepreneur—if you’re a keen observer, you can see what others may not and that’s what it takes to identify opportunity. An entrepreneurial leader takes an opportunity-focused approach to situations and people. They ask themself what they can learn, what a new perspective could teach them, how to find people and situations that can accelerate an opportunity.

Be a Learner

Remember that you don’t know it all. Students who have worked with me know that my mantra is that “the best leaders are learners.” The more you can develop a learning mentality, the better you’ll be at staying open to hearing new ideas, considering contrary points of view, and arriving at improved decisions.

Start with the Means at Hand

Entrepreneurs start with the means at hand—like cooking a meal when you should have gone to the grocery store but you ran out of time. It’s amazing what you can whip up in the kitchen with whatever is hanging around in the fridge and the pantry. A entrepreneurial leader begins with what they know, who they know, and what they can find. Chief among those are other people.

Seek Outside Input

Entrepreneurial leaders think beyond their first idea and seek the input of others. Your ability to see beyond your first view is essential to identifying opportunity, inviting others in, and creating an inclusive culture for continuous innovation. An entrepreneurial leader keeps in mind that there is more than one best way. If that weren’t true, there wouldn’t be so much competition driving our world. Your ability to step back and let others offer their ideas is an important aspect of being an entrepreneurial leader.

Invest in Your Team

Don’t just find people; enlist and enroll them toward a common purpose. An entrepreneurial leader is the one who gets a group to truly operate as a team; creating collaboration and high performance that sparks more innovation.

They also focus on how to bring out the best in others. Your curiosity and interest in what others are interested in is a key signal that you care about their ideas, experience, and point of view. By investing in your team and team members’ development, you build trust, loyalty, and engagement that is a key driver to making things happen!

Think Big

Imagine new possibilities, and paint the picture for others. Your ability to provide a vision of why the work you’re doing as a team is important, and where the team is going, is a key component of being an entrepreneurial leader.

Seek Feedback

Be flexible and hone your ability to adapt to context, people, and feedback. Approaching situations with a learning mindset enables entrepreneurial leaders to take in new information and navigate shifting landscapes. A key to doing so is to consistently seek out and incorporate feedback from as many people and contexts as possible. As you gain further input, you build your vision for the future more strongly.

Take Action

Most of all, entrepreneurial leaders take action. They move forward, even into the unknowable, ready to learn. And, while some don’t exactly embrace ambiguity, most recognize that one of the simplest ways to learn is to take a step, see what happens, adjust, and learn even faster!


Posted in Research & Insights

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