Leadership Lessons from the Entrepreneurial Trenches

Angie Morgan, Co-founder, Lead Star

Leadership Lessons from the Entrepreneurial Trenches

Entrepreneurialism.  When most hear that word they think excitement, adventure, and unlimited opportunities.  While true, there are other words that complete the picture: Stress, anxiety, and sleepless nights.

I’ve been an entrepreneur for 11 years.  While the journey has been worthwhile, it hasn’t been easy.  During those dark, difficult days when you wonder how you’ll make payroll, or whether the purchase order will come through, you need to rely on something to keep you going.

Fortunately for my business partner and me, we had our Marine Corps training to fall back on to help us take action when our instincts were calling our ambition into question.

Here are four lessons we learned from the entrepreneurial trenches that have helped us persevere whenever we have felt uncertain:

  • Don’t fall in love with your plan.  Business plans are great, but they’re not everything. We learned early on that while planning was important, execution was more important.  And as we took action, our environment changed.  We had to be flexible with our plan as new information presented itself.  Sometimes that meant adapting our plan; other times that meant scrapping it all together. Knowing that we didn’t have to stick to a plan was often all that we needed to respond quickly to changing market conditions.
  • Be prepared for friction. Entrepreneurs are creating something that has never existed before, which is a recipe for uncertainty. The Corps taught us that when we were forging new ground we had to plan for friction – that unknown force that might disrupt our efforts.  As a result, we’re comfortable with being uncomfortable.  Whenever we experience ambiguity, we like to remind ourselves that this is part of the job, which has an oddly calming effect.
  • If not you, then who?  Being an entrepreneur requires a tremendous amount of confidence.  After all, many people will doubt you on your entrepreneurial journey, such as clients, lenders, and – sad but true – friends and family.   But don’t be dismayed by the naysayers. While we developed our confidence in the Marine Corps, you don’t need to have worn a uniform to be confident.  You just have to believe in yourself and remind yourself frequently that if others have done it, you can, too. 
  • Go all in.   Remember “Shock and Awe?” That phrase that came out of the war in Iraq?  It related to operational excellence and the intensity of focus displayed by the military.  “Shock and Awe” is a great analogy for what entrepreneurs need to do to succeed.  When starting anything new, don’t be timid … don’t put forth a half-hearted effort … and don’t hesitate with your action.  Go all in and truly commit yourself to your idea.   

These lessons are tried, true and exceptionally valuable for anyone – at any stage – in their entrepreneurial venture.  If you have the courage to act on your dream, and are mentally prepared to manage the stress associated with entrepreneurship, you’re well on your way to achieving success.

About the Author

Angie Morgan is a former Marine Corps captain and co-founder of Lead Star, a nationally-recognized leadership development consulting firm.  Morgan is also the co-author of Leading from the Front: No-Excuse Leadership Tactics for Women (McGraw-Hill), which became a business bestseller.