CEOs identified having an entrepreneurial mind-set as an attribute that is most critical to success as a leader – Brandon Hall Group, State of Leadership Development 2015: The Time to Act is Now
Being entrepreneurial implies finding and implementing a better solution to a problem. But how can one be entrepreneurial? Aside from being able to lead and execute change, one must also be able to either:
- have more and better ideas (not easy), or
- be open-minded about your followers’ ideas (much easier).
Your followers are often closer to the tactical work and may clearly see what’s going on. Yesterday I spoke to a panel of entry-level consultants at McKinsey and BCG. They stated that one way they provide value to senior partners and CEOs is by being closer to the data and clients’ problems and employees. Employees tend to have valuable insights that could be used to innovate businesses.
Here’s how you can be an entrepreneurial leader:
Self – Be open-minded and reserve judgement. You’re at your weekly team meeting and someone brings up an idea that doesn’t make sense to you. Instead of dismissing it, reserve your judgement until the idea can be explored. Most people are not great communicators. When they give you an idea, they may not deliver it very well. Make sure not to judge a book by its cover. When someone is telling you something new and different, try to just listen.
People – Pay attention to differences. This Harvard Business Review article encourages leaders to find and listen to divergent thinkers. Certain people tend to have an affinity towards innovating and looking for solutions. Other people have a skill set that is completely different than yours. By listening to and paying attention to such people, you are able to tap into their insights and ideas. The problem is that most people like to listen to and work with people who are like them. Therefore, start by reserving judgement and seek to be open-minded to people who have very different perspectives.
Situations – Allow innovation. Being open-minded works best when you have people with divergent views who are encouraged and excited to innovate. If you want your followers to be more creative, make sure that the winning conditions exist. Allow them to choose how to accomplish challenges in order to create the need to be innovative. Provide an environment in which people are willing and able to entertain and share interesting ideas. Central to this is a cross-functional environment in which people are exposed to different people. Be open-minded and reserve judgement.
Outcomes – Focus people’s attention on seeking better problems. This Harvard Business Review article speaks to the importance of reframing problems using this example: imagine you are an office building manager and that your tenants are complaining about the elevator being too slow. Most people would imagine that a solution might be to install faster elevators – but this is expensive. Now imagine if one of your employees suggested installing mirrors in your elevator. This may seem completely irrelevant because it doesn’t solve the problem of the elevator being too slow. However, closer inspection reveals that this suggestion actually solves a better problem: installing mirrors gives tenants a distraction and reduces the perception that elevators are slow in the first place.
Entrepreneurial leaders need to create better outcomes for their organizations. To do this, you must be open-minded, seek divergent perspectives, enable innovation, and reframe problems.
What are the things that prevent you from being entrepreneurial?