How to Be an Entrepreneurial Leader in Eight Steps

How to be entrepreneurial

Through years of working with students, executives, and conducting research, it has become clear to me what is involved in being an entrepreneurial leader. To put it simply, entrepreneurial leaders apply an entrepreneurial mindset to how they lead. 

Let’s dive further into what that entails. 

How to Become Entrepreneurial?

Being entrepreneurial 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 also with a commitment to practice consistently. 

Think of your leadership instincts as an ice cube. Things seem pretty well formed. In order to change and adopt more of an entrepreneur leadership style, you’ll need to let that ice melt just a bit, then adopt new behaviors and build new instincts; both which are common entrepreneurial leadership characteristics. 

How to Be an Entrepreneurial Leader in Eight Steps

Interested in doing the work to become a different type of leader? From finding opportunity and working with a team, to thinking big and taking action, here are eight steps to becoming an entrepreneurial leader. 

1. Focus on Opportunity

For leaders, the first step in how to be entrepreneurial is to 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, one of the most essential skills in entrepreneurship. 

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, and how to find people and situations that can accelerate an opportunity. 

2. Be a Learner

More critical skills in entrepreneurship follow on this list. Next, 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. 

3. 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. Being entrepreneurial begins with what you know, who you know, and what you can find. Chief among those are other people. 

Interested in improving your entrepreneurial skills? Read more about Babson’s entrepreneurial mindset in education.

4. Seek Outside Input

Entrepreneurs as 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 a welcoming culture for continuous innovation. This inclusive leadership style keeps in mind that there is more than one best way to achieve a goal. 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. 

This is where your personal network can come into play, the one you spent time building and maintaining. Networking is an essential part of being an entrepreneur and something that should practiced on a regular basis. 

5. Invest in Your Team

Don’t just find people; enlist and enroll them toward a common purpose. Entrepreneurs as leaders know how to get 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, by having integrity in leadership, you build trust, loyalty, and engagement that is a key driver to making things happen. 

6. Think Big

Entrepreneurs as leaders 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. 

7. Seek Feedback

Embracing entrepreneur abilities means being flexible and adapting 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. 

8. Take Action

With the eighth and final step we come to one of the most important skills in entrepreneurship: the drive to take action. Being entrepreneurial means moving forward, even into the unknowable, ready to learn from both successes and setbacks. And, while some don’t exactly embrace ambiguity, entrepreneurial leaders recognize that one of the simplest ways to learn is to take a step, see what happens, adjust, and learn even faster! 


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