By: Rich Russakoff and Mary Goodman

Entrepreneurs and 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 who changes our world – think Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Steve Jobs (Apple), Yvon Chouinard (Patagonia), Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines), Bill Gates (Microsoft), and Richard Branson (Virgin). 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.

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 manage to keep most of them. Reaching beyond their grasp allows them to stretch further, which often leads to breakthrough innovation. Unfortunately, this overreaching comes with a cost: not all promises are kept. Execution sometimes takes a back seat to innovation. Bright shiny objects can lead to the next powerhouse idea but can also cause today’s priorities to drop completely off the radar.

Leaders execute. They keep their promises, but they don’t do it alone. One of the secrets of both great entrepreneurs and leaders is that they rely upon these five people:

  1. An operations manager or COO to keep the company’s promises
  2. A financial person (CFO, bookkeeper, controller, etc.) to keep financial promises through receivable collection, pricing, and financing
  3. An administrative or executive assistant to help them keep their personal promises
  4. A coach to help them keep promises to the company, the stakeholders, and themselves
  5. A marketing/sales person (CMO, etc.) because nothing happens without a sale

(For more information on these key players, see Rich’s post: Who Are Your Top 5?)

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 bucks the system. The idea becomes a passion, the passion takes form and voila! There is a business.

However, for that business to continue to grow and stay relevant, it takes people – a lot of them. Customers, vendors, employees, associates, and even competitors are people and require a human connection to manage them.

The entrepreneur typically measures his or her success based on the impact of their ideas. The leader measures his or her success based on the quantity and quality of their relationships.

So, it boils down to this: If you inspire, you are a leader. If you are inspired, you are an entrepreneur. Still not sure? Ask the people around you.

This post originally published in CBS MoneyWatch on January 9, 2012 as “Are You an Entrepreneur or a Leader”.

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