The entrepreneurial journey is not linear – and it’s certainly not easy. Because of this, it’s easy to go the wrong direction, make the wrong decision, or choose a faulty business strategy.
Whether you’re a social entrepreneur solving community or social problems or an entrepreneur bringing new technology to market, there’s one thing you must remember – sometimes you need to admit your mistakes.
Whether it’s pride, aggressive timelines, or keeping your donors or investors happy, it’s difficult to say “we messed up” or worse – “I messed up.” This pride or fear can keep us ignoring both gut feelings and hard data – and ignorance in the face of truth about a mistake doesn’t get your company or your movement anywhere.
If entrepreneurs don’t know how to correct their own shortcomings – leadership style included – it puts the entire organization at risk of failure. Similar to how you run a startup, pivots are relevant in your leadership style, too. Learn to embrace the pivot to become a better leader – and watch your movement benefit in the process.
As a young social entrepreneur, I’ve had to learn the leadership pivot the hard way: after getting it way wrong. Although it’s never comfortable to go through these pivots, this kind of leadership and acceptance transcends through your team – which gets you closer to your ultimate goal of making an impact.
Here’s what to learn through pivoting, through starting over, and accepting a mistake as a leader:
Be open with your team.
No matter what, be open with your team about faulty strategies or missteps in building your company. Great leaders inspire their teams through both humility and transparency. There’s nothing worse than being an employee and feeling unappreciated or out of touch. Keep your team abreast of pivots, challenges or wrong-moves. They will appreciate your transparency and may even have a solution you haven’t thought of yet.
Avoid the quick fix.
Don’t be rash. When you pivot in your leadership, do it for the long-run. You’re not just setting an example for the leaders within your company, but you’re influencing the entire culture. Pivot thoughtfully. If your previous leadership strategies haven’t been working, make small steps toward a larger goal to have lasting influence. A quick apology after a rash decision in a meeting won’t get you anywhere. Lead for the long-run and pivot your style accordingly.
Ask for mentorship and guidance.
No matter what, have a mentor who is willing to give you lasting advice founded on years of experience. Every mentor I’ve ever had – both nonprofit founders and corporate leaders – have stories of their pitfalls. They are inevitable, and likely, if you’ve never been an entrepreneur before, you’ll find yourself in situations that can be tricky and confusing. Lean on your mentors and ask for their help as you pursue transparency and humility in the way you lead your team and build a company to make lasting impact.
Keep a journal or something that will help you look back on similar situations as you grow in maturity as a leader. Don’t be afraid to document your mistakes – this will help you retrace your behavior, thought patterns or leadership style to see when you may be slipping into your leadership traits of the past. This will also help keep you self-aware, grounded and humble –and may frame future conversations with team members or future leaders in your organization.
Social entrepreneurs, for the most part, have the best of intentions. Though, when the going gets rough and leading a team is harder than expected, many fall into faulty leadership styles that create tension between the good they strive to do externally and the havoc their leadership can create internally.
Best said by John. F. Kennedy, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” Learn from your shortcomings, accept your mistakes, and don’t be afraid to pivot as a leader in the same way you would in your business strategy.
Don’t let your organization fail because you failed to address your mistakes and make a leadership pivot.
By Tori Utley
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