Entrepreneurial leaders have a breadth and depth of experience that often transcends that of those who followed traditional career paths.

They understand their companies’ overall goals; they know where the corporate boundaries are unyielding and where they can flex. They are passionate about creating new opportunities that fit the business strategy, and they can ably marshal and energize resources to create those opportunities. These individuals have a unique combination of competencies.

These individuals are not always the inventors of new products, services or processes, but they are very often the team builders who turn those ideas into profitable businesses. They are seen as the business architects who design the work environment, create informal controls, provide the discipline, and drive the change by promoting entrepreneurial behavior in others. They open channels of communication, and establish clear roles and responsibilities, goals and measures.

Entrepreneurial leaders are change agents; they have a high tolerance for ambiguity, prefer autonomy, have plenty of perseverance, and are committed to making a difference. They are goal-oriented, self-motivated and decisive. They are willing to push the limits of what is acceptable behavior to get things done. Their motivation and behaviors mean that they inevitably run up against entrenched bureaucracies. They face plenty of resistance, isolation, lack of encouragement, and issues of control. They are often forced to challenge policies and procedures.

Their leadership style lends itself to networking, building relationships, and empowering employees to achieve results. They encourage diversity, promote collaboration, and strive to empower individual team members. They are also emphatic and attuned to the individual and collective needs of team members. They are often independent thinkers and have strong opinions and belief in what they are doing. They are committed to the task and dedicated to completing the mission.

In light of the above traits, there are many who say that anyone can be a corporate entrepreneur or entrepreneurial leader but there is little evidence to prove that one way or the other. There is, however, evidence that certain behaviors and competencies can determine success. These are often better indicators of who is best suited for the role of entrepreneurial leader. Traditional leaders thrive in environments that support the core business, but entrepreneurial leaders relish the opportunity to create something new. They languish, however, when it comes to maintaining or sustaining a business.

The real difference between traditional leaders and entrepreneurial leaders may be in the experience itself. An entrepreneurial leader will encounter new hurdles along the way, including hitting the wall, traversing the valley of despair, or flying blind. These experiences will bring profound changes to the individuals involved. It will change who they are and who they have become. They will have a hard time stepping back into old roles or behaviors.

Entrepreneurial leaders make the transition to a new way of working that is foreign to the rest of the organization. Asking them to go back to the core business will be unsettling. Asking them to help institutionalize what they’ve learned will inspire them.

Not only are these leaders’ good entrepreneurs, they are also good employees. They are committed to serving the company and the new initiative. They must live in two worlds at the same time: the entrepreneurial venture and the core business. It is as if they have one foot in one boat and one in another. They must find the right balance when organizational pressures, resource constraints and funding issues of the existing business come in conflict with the new initiative.

Who are the entrepreneurial role models in your organization?


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