Entrepreneurs and business leaders each have their place in the business world. It’s the entrepreneur that forges the path and the leader that turns it into a highway. Even more rare, is the entrepreneurial leader that changes our world. Think Steve Jobs (Apple), Yvon Chouinard (Patagonia), Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Henry Ford (Ford Motor Co.), Sam Walton (Walmart), and dozens of others. Those entrepreneurs not only changed our lives but changed life as we know it.
So how do you join the ranks of entrepreneurial leaders? First, let’s look at the difference between leaders and entrepreneurs. Answer the following questions and see how you stack up. Remember, there’s no right or wrong.
Is it easier for you to make promises or to keep promises?
Entrepreneurs are visionaries. They make lots of promises, and by the skin of their teeth and seat of their pants they keep most of them. Reaching beyond their grasp allows them to stretch further which often leads to break-through innovation. Unfortunately, this comes with a cost: Not all promises are kept. Execution sometimes takes a back seat to innovation. Bright shiny metal objects can lead to the next powerhouse idea but can also cause today’s priorities to drop faster than the Time’s Square ball on New Year’s Eve.
Leaders execute. They keep their promises but they don’t do it alone. Here’s one of the secrets of both great entrepreneurs and leaders: They rely upon these three people:
1. An operations manager or COO to keep the companies promises
2. A financial person (CFO, bookkeeper, controller, etc) to pay for their promises through receivable collection, pricing, and financing
3. An administrative or executive assistant – to help them keep their personal promises
Speaking of counting on other people…
Are you a lone wolf or a top dog?
Many entrepreneurs start their businesses, because quite frankly, they don’t play well with others. They get an idea that often bucks the system. The idea becomes a passion, the passion takes form and, voila! There is a business.
The entrepreneur typically measures his or her success based on the impact of their ideas.
However, for that business to continue to grow and stay relevant it takes people – a lot of them. Customers, vendors, employees, associates, even competitors are people and require a human connection to manage them.
The leader measures his or her success based on the quantity and quality of their relationships.
Is creativity in your nature or something you nurture?
In his latest book 11/22/63, Stephen King wrote: “Artistic talent is far more common than the talent to nurture artistic talent. Any parent with a hard hand can crush it, but to nurture it is much more difficult.”
Nurturing talent maybe more difficult but it is no less important than entrepreneurial talent. Steve Jobs was a “design maniac” who, even while in the hospital, tried to redesign his oxygen mask and finger monitor according to Walter Isaacson in his biography on the man. Such was his passion and creativity.
So here’s your final question: If you inspire, you are a leader. If you are inspired, you are an entrepreneur. Still not sure? Ask the people around you.