By Michael Gunther
My entrepreneurial journey has proven to be one of the most challenging and, yet, rewarding things I chose to do in my life. I experienced successes and failures, worked with a diverse set of leaders with varied perspectives, constantly pushed myself to improve my leadership abilities, suffered from sleepless nights worrying about revenue, and celebrated when my team grew and achieved new levels of performance.
Through my personal perspective as a business owner, along with the perspectives of over 500 business owners I’ve worked with, I identified the ways in which being an entrepreneur can actually hurt your business. Entrepreneurs tend to experience burn-out or become frustrated that they can’t move their business to the next level or achieve the business of their dreams. Think about it – the skills, behaviors and characteristics needed to initially grow a business are vastly different than those required to lead a profitable, sustainable entity.
A transition needs to happen between being a start-up entrepreneur and becoming a collaborative leader of a thriving business. For instance, great entrepreneurs are risk takers, innovators, multi-taskers, driven, quick, the sole decision maker and a visionary directing the team – the list could go on and on. On the other hand, the traits a great leader needs include being a team builder, coach, transparent, driver of implementation, supportive and a methodical decision maker. When contrasting the two sets of traits, you may begin to understand why so many business leaders struggle to truly grow their business.
As a company grows, the leader must shift from being a ‘lone ranger’ leader to a ‘collaborative’ leader. Starting a business is actually easier than building a successful, thriving company for the long-term. This leadership shift requires an openness to allow others to lead, make decisions and influence strategies to enhance and grow the business. It also requires taking calculated risks and staying focused on building a solid operational and management foundation.
Perhaps one reason why so many businesses fail is because the leaders never make this switch. They continue operating from an “I am the Boss” mentality instead of leading from an “I am here to make you successful” mentality. I often hear owners say that their employees don’t make decisions, are not as committed, can’t handle certain tasks like they can, etc. These are all signals that the owner isn’t transitioning to the next level of leadership. The reality is that successful 21st century entrepreneurs must learn when and how to transition effectively from entrepreneur to collaborative leader.
To grow your business beyond yourself and transition to lead a growing, profitable entity requires your leadership style to shift. If you don’t shift, you may find it difficult to gain the traction to truly achieve the goals you desire for your business. The most important skill and behavior changes you make are related to building solid relationships with your team while creating authentic, purposeful and impactful collaboration with your employees and customers.