There are generally two types of leaders. There are leaders who are good at building new companies and those who are good at growing established companies. This is not about leadership style. I’m talking about the atmosphere where a particular leader shines. Below, I’ll discuss some of the challenges and characteristics of each.
Entrepreneurs: The Great Builders
Entreprenuers tend to be exceptionally driven and serve as the gas pedal for their organizations. Successful entreprenuers are passionate and surround themselves with a culture of good people, who are talented at what they do and who truly care about the company. Yet, most entreprenuers do not have the strength to officially relinquish control. It’s debilitating and demoralizing to those around them. They become a bottleneck and a silent source of tension and inefficiency. They ironically become an anchor. Soon, it doesn’t matter how hard they step on that gas pedal, the growth and momentum of the business can’t overcome the growing weight of their self-imposed anchor. Acknowledging you need to relinquish control is to be vulnerable and that is something many people in leadership roles are simply unable to do.
I call this the puberty stage for a company. It is noticeably awkward and everyone just wants to move past it, yet they don’t really know how to navigate it. I find it usually is experienced when you’re between 20-30 full-time staff. A tell-tale sign is when you realize your current business operations are neither sustainable nor will they get you where you want to go.
Generals: The Great Expansionists
Generals reshape organizations, build brand equity, capture market share, and help companies reach their full potential. They help a company grow out of its puberty stage and will likely restructure and transform the company’s operations. Whether they inspire loyalty, fear, or indifference, they know how to build upon other’s foundations and make a company better. Generals put leaders in place that have more experience and expertise overseeing each business area, then they align those leaders with the company’s goals and get out of their way…letting them make key decisions and run the business. Generals, contrary to belief, don’t run the business. They steer it. They focus on the direction of the business, key partnerships, and other enterprise-level accountabilities.
Do you have an exception in mind?
There can be exceptions and varying flavors of each. But, generally speaking, the soft skills and hardwired characteristics of an entrepreneur would not fare well in a large, multi-billion dollar company. Equally, I wouldn’t take a high-performing corporate leader and let them head a start-up. Now, the latter happens often. I get it. VCs want to hire experience at the helm. However, I would argue, that if the displaced corporate leader is to be truly successful as an entrepreneur, they must be choosing to follow their own innovative idea or a personal passion, versus a monetary gain or title.