The Entrepreneurial Leader as Manager

We all know there is a lot of discussion about the difference between being a manager and being a leader. What worries me, however, is that some people think that entrepreneurs get a free pass in the management department. In my opinion, vision and innovation just aren’t enough.

As quoted from New Venture Creation, “Much of business education traditionally has emphasized and prepared students for life in administration. There is nothing wrong with that, but education preparing students to start and lead vibrant, growing new ventures cannot afford to emphasize administrative efficiency, maintenance tasks, resource ownership, and institutional formalization. Rather, such a program needs to emphasize skills necessary for life in entrepreneurship…managing conflict, resolving differences, balancing multiple viewpoints and demands, and building teamwork an consensus.”

So in all the conflict management, at what point are you going to actually get things done?

There is a little backpedaling later that states, “Entrepreneurial leaders need a sound foundation in what are considered traditional management skills.” However, if the end result is a harvest of some kind, either being bought directly or going public, how everyone gets along just doesn’t seem like it should be the first priority.

I am not saying work culture is not something that one should ignore, especially if starting a new firm. You have a chance to set the stage for the kind of culture you want in a company, so it makes sense that you have some emotional intelligence with which to do that. However, I have seen a number of start-ups fail or send people packing because essentially they feel like “chaos” is a completely acceptable work culture. For the early stages of a company, sure, maybe you need a little chaos. You cannot scale out of chaos, however, and you will present little value to a buyer or investor if you are unpredictable (and not in a good way).

The founder of the firm may not need to have all the business expertise in the world, but the founder should recognize when he doesn’t have the skills necessary to execute. Hire a team and be willing to defer to them instead of micromanage. At some point, the founder has to let go to see the firm grow.

In an article I have written before, I explored the crossroads between the start up culture and the corporate world. From my interviews and experience, it comes down to execution. For the most part, the best of both worlds is being able to product a great product or service and get it out the door, to see customers enjoying it. You don’t want to have to constantly break your back to get there. I follow the David Allen philosophy: GTD. Getting things done is so important, no matter your role.

But it is even more important if you are going to be a leader.

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Category(s): Leaders
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