From Big Boss to Entrepreneurial Leader

One of the biggest mistakes new entrepreneurs make is assuming they must “do it all.” Even if they hire employees, they cling to their workload.

That can lead them to become a tough boss, a workaholic, or both. Neither is ideal if you want to enjoy and feel confident in your business!

Entrepreneurs often talk about the importance of leadership. When you’re a leader, you can prioritize your business’s growth. Otherwise, you remain stuck in the daily grind, like a glorified employee of your own business.

But let’s face it: as a business owner, you still have people and tasks to manage. That leads you right back into the “employee” mindset, except now you’re also a manager.

How do you strike a balance between working in your business vs. on your business? Or between management and leadership?

Rethinking Your Workload

It’s like working on projects around the house. If you’re the handy sort, you take the DIY approach. You pour your blood, sweat, and tears into the task at hand.

You likely started your entrepreneurial journey with a DIY mindset. You handled everything for your business. Perhaps you did too much and ended up working all the time.

Once you got a team, you became more like a construction foreman. You instructed others what to do, made sure you had all the materials, and so on.

Now, you’re the boss — but you’re still pulling long hours. You have even more responsibility now. If you don’t keep track of everyone else’s work and all the administrative tasks, the project fails.

This is where many business owners find themselves between a rock and a hard place.

Do you take on most of the responsibility and end up with even less freedom than in your corporate job?

Or do you become the scary boss who now has an even bigger workload?

As a business owner, you’ll always have some managerial tasks on your plate. The key to finding balance is to be a leader, not a “boss.”

Lead with a Promise

You’ve probably heard the advice to “delegate and automate” as many tasks as possible, but it bears repeating. If it’s not something that you alone can do, hand it off!

Delegation is a critical managerial task. However, it’s easy to slip into “boss mode.” You’re so busy assigning tasks that your energy goes toward that rather than running your business. And if you don’t let the delegee take accountability for the task, you can’t ever truly let it go.

So, both the DIY entrepreneur and hands-on boss end up working long hours. Whatever the reason you started your business, you probably didn’t want that! To truly achieve entrepreneurial freedom, you must embrace these 5 Ps:

Promise: what motivates your enterprise and what you help your customers achieve

Product: the value you provide your customers

Process: how you fulfill your promise and distribute your product

People: the workers, investors, and customers who make your enterprise thrive

Profit: the value generated by your enterprise minus expenses

Your promise drives the other 4 Ps. It pushes you from the hands-on mindset to one of leadership. If you can inspire others to do their tasks, you don’t need to boss them around.

That’s a vital ingredient of leadership. And when you take that approach to those inevitable admin tasks, you transition from “overworked boss” into “confident manager.”

Here’s how.

Show, Don’t Tell

We often talk about leadership as being the opposite of management. However, it’s more the opposite of “bossing.”

  • Bosses tell employees what to do, and when they don’t or can’t, they do it themselves.
  • Bosses assume total accountability for the business, so they struggle to delegate effectively.
  • Bosses talk to their employees rather than with them.

By contrast…

  • Leaders inspire their teams to do their tasks. They give guidance, not demands.
  • Leaders share accountability and let delegees take ownership of tasks.
  • Leaders communicate clearly and effectively.

You can absolutely manage people with a leadership approach. Show them how to fulfill your promise and why the tasks must be done — rather than simply telling them. Show them how you maintain accountability so they can model it in their responsibilities.

Leadership and management go hand in hand. And communication is a crucial ingredient of both. When you make your ideas clear, you can better motivate your employees. When they understand the task and why it’s important, it’s much easier to do it!

So when you need to put on your “manager hat,” keep your leadership principles in mind. Translate your promise into actions … which, you know, speak louder than words!

Create a Framework for Accountability

The DIY/employee mindset emphasizes “getting it done” and “who’s in charge.” That’s fine if you’re upgrading your bathroom or building a house. You’re either responsible for everything or you’re telling others what to do.

As an entrepreneurial leader, though, you’re more like an architect or property developer. You’re leading with a vision — your promise — that guides everyone’s workload. It’s not your role to tell the foreman how to manage his crew. And while you may get your hands dirty, you could be called away at any moment.

To both lead and manage your people, let everyone be accountable for their own work. Build a framework in which everyone understands your business’s promise and how their role fulfills it. Here’s how:

Set boundaries for working on your business, but leave wiggle room for your admin tasks. There are times when you’ll need to step in and be the boss. But most of the time, you’ll need to preserve your energy for strategy and leadership.

Delegate in alignment with your purpose. Handing off tasks for the sake of delegation will only worsen things. Does the task even need to be done? Do you have the right people to do it? Make sure you can truly let it go or else it will remain on your mind.

Clarify each task’s purpose and communicate your goals. As I’ve described in my Wheel of Momentum, clarity promotes confidence which drives competence. With this approach, people can manage themselves to an extent — sparing your time and energy!

Wrapping Up

Entrepreneurs often pull triple duty: working in, managing, and strategizing their business. That’s a recipe for burnout. However, you don’t want to neglect critical management tasks nor get stuck in “boss mode.”

By approaching all your tasks as a leader, you can grow your business without a DIY mindset. Create a framework where you can put on different hats as needed, but let your team own their responsibilities. And remember, your core promise drives it all.

This article was inspired by an episode of the Simplifying Entrepreneurship podcast in which I interview Mark A. Herscherg, speaker, author of The Career Toolkit, and founder/instructor of MIT’s career accelerator program.

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