Maria E. Meyers & Kate Pope Hodel, Authors, Beyond Collisions
Building an entrepreneurial network is, at its heart, a work of collaboration and community change. And that kind of endeavor requires a very special kind of leader, one who knows how to build bridges, engage a very broad community, nurture relationships and get everyone focused on the really “big hairy audacious goal.”
We’re talking about change management. Change management requires a few key things. You need a problem to solve. You have to find a solution that people believe is viable. You have to stick behind it throughout implementation. You have to have folks who are able to pull it off, and everybody involved needs to believe they have something to be gained from the process.
If you’re building entrepreneurial infrastructure, here are six hallmarks of the kind of leadership required:
- Lead from behind
- Be entrepreneurial
- Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate
- Relationships matter
- Diversity matters
- Execution is everything
The term “servant leadership” was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in his 1970 essay The Servant as Leader.
Being a servant leader, leading from behind, means letting others take the credit. It means convincing others that your ideas are their ideas, or creating ideas together. It means caring much more about the community, the partners you work with, the entrepreneurs you serve than any credit you will ever get.
You have to give first.
When you’re starting from scratch, and you can see groups that are moving things forward; amplifying their work can be one of the best ways to build the whole system. Also when you’re working with volunteers – which you’re going to be – you are going to find people with passion who have connections and can make things happen. You need to put some support under them to make those things happen.
In most communities there’s not established infrastructure for entrepreneurship. Anybody that gets into this business has to come up with new solutions, which means they have to be entrepreneurial. They have to find creative ways to fund the solutions they come up with.
In real estate, it’s location, location, location. In community change, it’s all about collaboration.
A fundamental part of building an entrepreneurial infrastructure is empowering those in the community to take a risk and collaborate with their peers, resulting in significant returns for the entrepreneurial community. It’s not always easy to collaborate. Everyone wants to lead. People have different agendas.
Set all that aside and jump in. Invite a few people to work with you on a project. Be very clear about the vision, the expected outcome, the destination. Find that tiny spark of collaboration and tend it carefully. You’ll be amazed at how often it only takes one spark to set off a wildfire.
Diversity begets diversity. The more diverse people you include, the more diverse people will become included in things because they work their own networks for you.
Defining problems and identifying gaps and writing reports and holding meetings will not move the needle one inch. Leadership guru Warren Bennis said, “Great groups ship.” By that he meant that great groups develop a tangible product. They get something done.
You have to have an executor. You can’t let up until you get to the end. You have come up with some measurements so that you know you are moving things forward.
Good Leaders Always Learn
Good leaders will encourage ideas from many sources. This means trying things and not getting too attached to them. If they work, great. If they don’t, let go. And at some point a really great thing will run its course and you’ll have to bid it a fond farewell. Don’t mourn. By letting go, you free up time and energy to move on to something else.
When it’s time to stop doing something, you’ll sense that the energy is gone. Celebrate what it was, learn from the experience, and use it as a base to springboard to something with more impact.