Entrepreneurship and leadership

 Johnni Kjelsgaard_Entrepreneurial leadership

Leadership is often misunderstood as just the ability to lead others. However, a more fundamental aspect of leadership is the ability to lead yourself. This is especially true of entrepreneurial leadership: your ability to lead yourself is the primary key to success as an entrepreneur, especially in the early stages – not your ability to lead others, though still important.

When entrepreneurs fail, it is overwhelmingly because they give up – they burn out, fail to see the meaning of their entrepreneurship, and choose an easier option that may be less rewarding (or worse: circumstances force them to continue in misery because the alternative is unattainable). At the root of all of this, and of entrepreneurial leadership, is the ability to understand yourself, who you are, what your desires are in life, what your purpose is in life, what you want to achieve and leave behind as your legacy – and what your core principles in life are, how you want to operate, your non-negotiables – your values.

Most entrepreneurs never stop up to connect themselves as individuals with their entrepreneurship because they are too busy – busy satisfying customers, making ends meet, paying the bills, maximising their profits “because that is what businesses are supposed to do.” No time to stop and smell the flowers!

Even the diligent entrepreneurs will rarely have reflected on how their mission, vision, and value statements came about, or the connection to themselves and their co-founders as individuals – and many business books on those topics refer to these elements quite separate from the individuals who have given birth to them. Modern business is very much about separating the business and the individual! Most literature and the practise around us encourage us not to make that connection. But if you do not invest this time in figuring out who YOU are and how all of that connects to your entrepreneurial leadership, your business, and you as a leader of your business – then misery awaits!

The route to success as an entrepreneur is unwieldy, and life will throw you many curveballs – some personal, some family-related, and many business-related. The only guarantee entrepreneurs have when they start is that there WILL be tough times – and if you cannot answer WHY you are doing what you are doing as an entrepreneur when those tough times arrive and last longer than anticipated, you are more likely to give up. If you do not know how what you do is important to you, your family, and your fellow co-founders, arguments will erupt. If you cannot connect the dots between the value of investing the extra time and money to weather the storm and the outcome you are seeking, then you will doubt yourself and eventually burn out.

And it is only too easy to be, and remain, reactive as an entrepreneur – because you are always too busy. It always seems unrealistic to take that time out to reflect on these points, in part because we are taught leadership is leading others, not ourselves. We spend time on the outward stuff, not the inward stuff, and as a result most entrepreneurs merely react to their reality. If we did focus on the inward stuff, we might be able to move from being reactive, to being proactive! And proactiveness comes with many long-term benefits – it enables us to plan and foresee possible future realities, mitigate risk, and make decisions rather than have them forced on us by circumstance. It will put us in the driver’s seat and enable us to more effectively lead other people.

More than this though it gives us a chance to connect the WHY, the WHAT, and the HOW of our business – if we are both aware of our deeper-rooted motivations as individuals and entrepreneurs and if we are proactive in our leadership, we can give purpose and direction to our business – and that is a shortcut to success!