Learning to lead – 20 tips

LEAD portrait“Leadership is about making things possible, management is about making them happen.”

This neat quote comes from Lord Karan Bilimoria who founded Cobra Beer – a drink which, interestingly, was born and raised in Britain.

For the start-up entrepreneur the distinction between manager and leader is, of course, unrealistic; we’re expected to cover all bases in the early stages. And nor is leadership just for leaders – those qualities can and should be displayed in both our personal and professional lives.   

We are back at the Eastern Enterprise Hub in Ipswich for a second two-day session on the Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneurs Programme with the School for Social Entrepreneurs. The theme is leadership and, after a programme of presentations and discussions with expert witnesses, what have we learnt?

Here are 20 tips and insights…

  1.  The lone entrepreneur will very quickly start talking about ‘we’ (even when it is just you!) This is not just about pretending the set-up is more than it is; it’s probably a subconscious reference to the many hats being worn.
  2. If you have no track record in business, you may need to establish your credentials through past connections and roles – assuming you have some that are genuine and relevant.
  3. When setting out, learn to listen (and shut up for 80% of the time you’re meeting people). If you’re looking for advice, give people a chance to volunteer their ideas and insights; resist the temptation to over-egg your pitch.
  4. Invite feedback on what’s wrong with your ideas. Welcome ‘but what if..?’ ‘what about..?’ and ‘have you thought about…?’ type questions.
  5. Supporters need reassurance that you know what you’re doing, before they invest their time and/or money. This means being upfront in your presentations about potential risks and how you plan to address them.
  6. To quote the late Michael Young [a serial entrepreneur behind a vast number of institutions and charities including the School for Social Entrepreneurs and the Open University] “social entrepreneurs should be high-minded and hard-headed“.
  7. You don’t need to ask permission to start your enterprise – just do it – and don’t give up too soon. If it’s not working as planned, you may simply need to change tack.
  8. Always go in to a meeting with your personal objectives – what you want to achieve by the time you leave.
  9. There are [at least] three types of objectives: those that are main; stretch objectives which are effectively your wish-list; fall back objectives – what you’ll settle for as a minimum.
  10. Get people on board by helping them solve their problems by helping you as well. WIIFM (what’s in it for me) is a great motivator. Trust is another important element in any relationship.
  11. Luke Gusman’s enterprise story is remarkable http://www.linkedin.com/pub/luke-gusman/14/26/8b8.
  12. Appearance and first impressions are important. Luke Gusman suggests 70% of people trust people with glasses and 83% think people with glasses are more intelligent… so he wears glasses.
  13. Deal with the boring bits of your job eg admin and paperwork regularly – to avoid last minute panic and to give others time to be helpful.
  14. Your business accounts are yours – even if you don’t like finance, make sure you know enough to understand the figures and to query anything that doesn’t look right.
  15. Leadership can be lonely. Find someone – a willing mentor – with whom you can download things that might be troubling you.
  16. Don’t make false promises – over-committing when you’re starting out can undermine trust; you can get a reputation for being flaky. Don’t be afraid to turn down business if it takes you beyond your capacity and competence.
  17. Work-life balance is essential. If you must keep busy most of the time, do so with outside interests that are quite different from your day-job. Starting a new business alongside a fulltime job is not recommended.
  18. Being ‘the responsible person’ where the buck can stop is important. Ensure your governance structure enables development and growth (rather than blocking it)
  19. Take people with you (hearts and minds stuff). Others need to understand the social / enterprise mix and aim for staff ownership of the vision.
  20. Be able and prepared to let go – it’s easy to fiddle, but you must demonstrate trust and confidence in the staff body.

For interesting insights into the difference between social entrepreneur visionary and social entrepreneur leader, go to http://bit.ly/1iCcmJD

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