Do you have the right stuff to be a successful entrepreneurial leader? If you aren’t sure, the good news is that entrepreneurs are usually made, not born. You can develop the qualities that you need in order to not just run a business but to motivate, mentor, and inspire others.
You don’t need to have employees in order to take on this role either. Maybe you’re a solopreneur; you can still step up within your community and make a difference. Below are some of the qualities you’ll need to cultivate.
As a successful entrepreneur, you need to be someone who is always looking ahead to the future. This has a few implications for how you approach things. It means that you will prioritize long-term benefits over short-term gratification. Perhaps surprisingly, that is a somewhat rare quality even among many business owners, so nurturing this tendency it will put you well ahead of the competition.
It also means that you cultivate the ability to think several steps ahead of anyone else, like a chess player who can see multiple possibilities on the board at the same time. Being able to anticipate trends is important. Strategies like workforce planning and trend forecasting are two good examples. Work on training yourself to pay attention to small details that others overlook, and practice making predictions about outcomes to improve your ability to accurately assess future prospects.
Leaderships and entrepreneurial success cannot be boiled down to a single quality, but if there is one quality that you can’t do without, it’s the ability to problem-solve. You can’t inspire others if you can’t fix things yourself. However, problem-solving is something of a misnomer, implying a single process when it actually means drawing on many different skills.
You need to be able to size up all the details of a situation, sometimes quickly and in the middle of a crisis. You also need to be able to analyze the potential solutions and reach the best one. Sometimes, the solution comes from you, but at least as often, this means knowing who to talk to as part of your information gathering.
Problem-solving isn’t something that will always happen in the middle of a crisis. More often, the situation is more mundane but no less critical, as in one in which you might need to figure out what kind of tech your employees need in order to do their jobs. You might need to ensure better safety for drivers in your fleet. You might talk to other business leaders about what you need and then view options on this site to learn more about the most reliable dash cams and how they can reduce accidents and associated costs.
You can practice problem-solving outside of the workplace with lower-stakes issues. There is a process you should follow that involves identifying what the problem is, researching and brainstorming solutions, and choosing the best one.
There are a whole host of soft skills that you need to cultivate. Fortunately, there are many opportunities outside of the workplace to do so if necessary, including in school and with volunteer opportunities. Communication is one of the most important of those skills. You need to be able to convey your ideas to others so that they not only understand you but get excited by those ideas.
Alongside communication is critical thinking skills. Critical thinking will help you see all sides of an issue and approach it with nuance. It can also help you identify bad ideas so that you don’t waste time pursuing them.
Charisma and self-confidence go hand in hand. These are a little less concrete than communication and critical thinking skills and thus a little harder to learn, but if you are struggling with self-confidence, a big part of that is to fake it till you make it, that is, project self-confidence until you actually feel it.
As for charisma, a substantial part of that is simply making people feel good about themselves. When you show people that you are genuinely interested in them and you listen to what they have to say, they will feel drawn to you.
Adaptability and Risk-Taking
You need to be able to both roll with the punches and pivot as necessary when circumstances change. You also need to be someone who doesn’t shy away from taking risks. Recklessness is not a virtue, but an overabundance of caution isn’t either, at least not in the world of entrepreneurial leadership.
If you are someone who becomes distressed when things are ambiguous or changes quickly, work on putting yourself in more situations where that is precisely the case. The same goes for taking risks. If you tend to be cautious, start mixing it up in small ways, making snap decisions on low-stakes things, and allowing yourself to take the road less traveled sometimes.
How much education do you need to become a successful entrepreneur? The somewhat unhelpful answer is that you need as much as you need, meaning that if you can launch a business while you’re still in college and get venture capitalists to throw millions at you, chances are no one is ever going to care whether or not you finished that degree in business administration.
However, the truth is that such a situation is vanishingly rare. Getting a bachelor’s degree in a business field can teach you a lot. Do you need an MBA or another advanced degree? That’s a more complex question and depends a lot on your specific ambitions and the conventions in your industry.
There is another angle to this question as well, and that’s about knowledge for the sake of knowledge. This isn’t just an esoteric pursuit; many of the world’s top leaders are readers, and not just of current business titles. Several classics, such as the 17th century Japanese manual of samurai strategy, The Book of Five Rings, have found their way onto many an executive’s shelves who believe the wisdom in older books is applicable to business negotiations today. At the core of all of this is a sense of curiosity and an expansive view of the world, both crucial qualities.