Today, many companies seek out the skills of entrepreneurs. Leadership candidates are encouraged to demonstrate entrepreneurial experiences to get hired or promoted. And while entrepreneurial characteristics are important for an innovation leader, traditional supervisors are better suited with conventional management skills. Let’s look at three areas of differentiating leadership for innovation success.
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Complete Ownership of a Problem
Entrepreneurial leaders are motivated by the finished product. They are visionary and adaptable. In order to achieve their goals, they are willing to take acceptable risks and are comfortable with uncertainty. Because they are intensely vested in the final product, an entrepreneurial leader exerts power and control as a way to completely own the problem.
On the other hand, traditional managers in operations, finance, or logistics might be ill-served by a total ownership perspective. Functional managers need to work across organizational boundaries and with both internal and external stakeholders. Predictability and meeting expectations enhance the cost-effectiveness and quality of operations. Collaboration and cooperation are appropriate skills for accomplishing day-to-day work.
Motivated by Uncertainty
Entrepreneurial leaders are not necessarily more risk-seeking than traditional managers. But, they are more comfortable with uncertainty, knowing that the path to the final product might not be straight or narrow. Exploring different alternatives and accepting failure for its learning value characterize an entrepreneurial leader’s approach to uncertainty.
In contrast, functional managers have stringent performance objectives and rely on predictable, trouble-free operations to meet commitments. While these leaders also appreciate learning, it is used to streamline and improve systems. Learning is experiential and based on data analysis. Planning and delivering on the plan are the metrics of success for conventional management tasks.
All of us can benefit from mastering skills of persuasion and negotiation. But entrepreneurial leaders excel at selling their ideas to both their team members and sponsors. They have an uncanny ability to demonstrate and convince others of the value in their concepts, obtaining funding to pursue these goals. Entrepreneurial leaders are not hard-nosed salespeople, but use their passion, motivation, and charisma to convince others that their path of action is the right one.
Traditional managers in operations also need to use persuasion and negotiation skills, especially in budget battles. However, their approach tends more to details. Technical leaders, especially, find such negotiations painful and they are not optimistic in getting what they want. Functional managers may convert the lack of a maintenance budget yet are not using their positive power or expert power to weave a compelling story.
Entrepreneurial Leaders Skills
Not every job needs to be staffed by an entrepreneurial leader. Manufacturing, marketing, and accounting need conventional managers to lead these functions with a focus on operational excellence. Quality, predictability, and cost-effectiveness are the focus.
Innovation programs do need entrepreneurial leaders. New product development (NPD) projects are uncertain and involve inherent risks. Entrepreneurial leaders are motivated to own the whole problem in order to generate a new solution. Entrepreneurial leaders are adaptable and have a willingness to accept uncertainty, especially as a learning activity. Finally, entrepreneurial leaders use persuasion to convince others that their ideas are valuable and beneficial.
How Do You Become an Entrepreneurial Leader?
You can also learn more about teams and leadership for innovation in our Innovation Best Practices and NPDP prep courses. Check out the 1Q2020 schedule here. You can also read more about innovation leadership and team development in Chapter 4 of The Innovation ANSWER Book, available from Amazon here.
I am inspired by writing, teaching, and coaching. I tackle life with an infusion of rigor, zeal, and faith. It brings me joy to help you build innovation leaders. Teresa Jurgens-Kowal is an experienced innovation professional with a passion for lifelong learning with a PhD in Chemical Engineering and an MBA in Computer and Information Decision Making. My credentials include PE (State of Louisiana), NPDP, PMP®, and CPEM, and I am a DiSC® certified facilitator. Contact me at email@example.com or area code 281 + phone 280-8717 for more information on coaching for entrepreneurs and innovators.
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