11 Principles of Entrepreneurial Leadership

Monday, September 17, 2007 at 11:30pm by Site Administrator

With the number of tools available on the Internet, it’s quite possible that entrepreneurs can build a successful business online – even a media empire. However, if you expect to expand, you will need to delegate tasks at some point. You simply can’t do everything yourself and also expect to grow.

That means you need to hire people and inevitably deal with “normal” work situations. Forget about traditional leadership. I’ve only ever had a very few bosses who were good leaders, but they taught me something because they were forward-thinking. Here’s some of their wisdom, distilled by my perspectives and my experience in the workforce.

  1. Never blame. At least, don’t blame an employee in front of another. If you have to reprimand, do it in private. This sets a bad tone, and you lose respect with all employees, as such things will get around like bad gossip.

  2. Don’t create adversarial situations. Don’t pit employees against each other or ask them to snitch. Healthy competition is fine. Back-stabbing is like a smile, but only in that it carries a long way through the company morale, and not in a good way.
  3. Understand the work. Be a constant learner. Have at least a fundamental understanding of the work you’re expecting your employees to do. It makes it easier on everyone when the try to tell you why something can’t be done, or that it will cost more.
  4. Don’t put square pegs in round holes. Basically, assign the right work to the right people, to allow them to work optimally. Don’t be like those companies that shall remain nameless that give you a job you can’t do and beat down your spirit. You wouldn’t want that and neither would your employees.
  5. Lead by example. If the company approaches a problem that covers new ground, don’t expect your employees to know how to solve it. If you know how, give them a crash course and let them take it from there. And by leading, I don’t mean leading employees like a puppy.
  6. Brainstorm. If they still have trouble solving a new problem, brainstorm with them. Proper brainstorming requires that at least the moderator of the meeting does some legwork beforehand. Record all ideas without censorship, or you might miss the best solution, which might be unfamiliar and thus seem odd.
  7. Ask, don’t tell. Communicate well and clearly. In a startup company with a positive environment and healthy competitive spirit, most people want to be asked, want to be challenged. Offer up the day’s or week’s “assignments” and let people pick. That is, if you’re not such a big company yet that you need to structure everyone’s roles. Don’t count anyone out. You might be suprised about who’s capable of what. Challenges also weed out the lazybones.
  8. Be decisive. Have a strategy ready. If business problems crop up and employees are aware of them, they’ll be thinking abou their bills, their mortgages, etc., not yours. (Possibly unless you’re giving them incentives.) So be the decision-maker, indicate what needs to be done, then ask for volunteers or assign tasks if necessary.
  9. Consider profit-sharing. Bonuses go a long way towards employee loyalty, passion and creativity. Sure, there’ll still be stragglers, but a creative bonus “matrix” weeds them out. If your company is young, there’s only so far you can go with bonuses, so also consider profit-sharing/ private shares. Talk to a good accountant about the best way to implement these incentives.
  10. Be sympathetic. Or at least courteous. It’s only human to not always be in top form, even with incentives. Talk to your employees, understand them and give them some leeway when possible. Have some redunancy in job descriptions, right from the beginning, to allow someone to temporarily take up the slack.
  11. Be firm. Being sympathetic is all well and good, but you do have a business to run. Be firm when it’s necessary.

These are by no means all you need to know or be, though they are amongst the important leadership traits.

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  1. A fantastic list. I would add “show your passion” to the list in my experience people are often motivated by working towards a common goal, vision or dream and a passionate leader should be able to layout that vision for the team and fire them up about it.

    Comment by John — September 18, 2007 @ 8:36 am

  2. Great list. I expecially like 3, 5 and 8. Especially 3, to consistantly learn means you can be a good leader for your employess which definately builds respect. You want your employees to respect you as there “leader”, and they will follow by example

    I will keep this list as a reminder of leadership traits

    Thank you

    Comment by Megan Vaillancourt — September 18, 2007 @ 1:47 pm

  3. A good leader is hard to find, but they can be taught to some degree, as not all the necessary skills are natural for all people. Thanks for the pointers on how to be a successfull entrepreneurial reader. This type of article is what I search for to expose my readership to new ideas. I cross-posted on your piece to http://blog.innovators-network.org The Innovators Network is a non-profit dedicated to bringing technology to startups, small businesses, non-profits, venture capitalists and intellectual property experts. Please visit us and help grown our community!

    Best wishes for continued success,

    Anthony Kuhn
    Innovators Network

    Comment by Anthony Kuhn — September 18, 2007 @ 8:10 pm

  4. @John: Excellent suggestion, thanks.

    @Bob: Sure, year-long unpaid internship?

    @Anthony: Thanks for the link nod.

    Comment by Raj Dash — September 19, 2007 @ 3:38 am

  5. Thanks to you, too, Megan. Apologies for missing your comment earlier. I think your comment was in moderation.

    Comment by Raj Dash — October 2, 2007 @ 7:02 am

  6. Nice article on leadership. thoughts well covered in precise manner. Here I wonder why entrepreneurial leadership only? These rules are applicable to any leader.l Even applicable to the managers who are involed majorly in staffing.

    Comment by Vishal Rastogi — October 8, 2007 @ 5:50 am

  7. Vishal, thanks for stopping by. You’re right, of course. I was focusing on Entrepreneurs, but realized after writing that most of these apply to any type of business leader.

    Comment by Raj Dash — October 8, 2007 @ 1:16 pm

  8. Great piece on leadership. If you’re interested in leadership books, check this one out: Trade Up!: Five Steps for Redesigning Your Leadership from the Inside Out. The author is Rayona Sharpnack. She’s the CEO and founder of the Institute of Women’s Leadership.

    Comment by Rebeca — October 8, 2007 @ 1:56 pm

  9. Thanks for dropping by, Rebecca, and for the book info. I’m trying to collect a list of good biz + marketing books to read b/c someone gave me a nice Amazon certificate that I think i have to use up by this year end.

    Comment by Raj Dash — October 8, 2007 @ 2:13 pm

  10. The list is great! Loved it!
    Thanks for sharing!

    Comment by Manish Kankani — October 21, 2007 @ 1:58 pm

  11. Anyone have any personal theories of entrepreneurial leadership? Maybe a theory that captures effectiveness (cause-effect)?

    Comment by JoRo — December 4, 2007 @ 6:27 am

  12. This would be good if it wasn’t written on a 6th grade level- complete with spelling errors.

    Comment by Charlotte — February 5, 2008 @ 4:38 pm

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