Chapter Synopsis

1. The Whole Entrepreneur

It’s not enough merely to have a dream. Your ideas may spark your start-up, but the flame must be continually fed with the right blend of fuel to keep the fire burning—not only in yourself, but also in the hearts of others. What does it take to transform an idealistic dreamer into an entrepreneurial leader who inspires in other stakeholders the trust and determination needed to drive a venture to success?

2. Internal Qualities of the Entrepreneur: Your Commitment Capacity

As you sit by yourself at a restaurant and sketch a great new idea on a napkin, wondering whether you have what it takes to pursue it by starting your own business, ask yourself three simple questions: Is your yearning for this new and different idea deep and irresistible? When you dream of the future, do you dream big and feel that your dream will benefit many? Can you see opportunity, rather than difficulty, in all of the challenges? If the answer to these questions is “Yes! Yes! Yes!” then you are ready.

3. External Qualities of the Entrepreneur: Your Persuasion Ability

Perhaps the entrepreneur’s most crucial leadership role is to absorb uncertainty, thus allowing others to fully participate in the journey. In doing so, the leader and the participant enter into a covenant, part of the fabric of the enterprise. This fabric sustains and nourishes the company in times of difficulty and energizes it in times of success.You need to become an engaging storyteller: one who conveys an authentic and convincing message and who successfully infects others with enthusiasm when inviting them to participate in the entrepreneurial dance. Most importantly, you need to be fully committed yourself.

4. Core Qualities of the Entrepreneur: Your Leadership Capability

Whether applied to our own entrepreneurial venture or within any organization we serve, certain core qualities and characteristics must be engaged when we are placed in a leadership role. Are great leaders born with these special qualities? Or can we acquire them in order to improve our leadership skills?

5. Contrasting Forces: Optimism versus Realism

An entrepreneur faces powerful contrasting forces that influence most actions: exuberant optimism vs. hard realism, action orientation vs. quiet reflection, the clamor for expedient decisions vs. the need for cautious rigor in evaluating options. The challenge is how to live with these contrasting forces while maintaining internal sanity and external integrity. You cannot always meet that challenge by yourself.

6. Companions on the Journey

Good companions are essential on the road to success. They balance our shortcomings and reinforce our strengths. To sustain companionship through successes and difficulties requires trust and self-esteem—and the willingness to be vulnerable.

7. Absorbing Uncertainty: The Entrepreneurial Covenant

Perhaps the entrepreneur’s most crucial leadership role is to absorb uncertainty, thus allowing others to fully participate in the journey. In doing so, the leader and the participants enter into covenants that become woven throughout the enterprise. The resulting fabric strengthens the organization in times of difficulty and celebrates it in times of success—evidence that trustworthiness is the most important attribute for the entrepreneur to earn.

8. The Pull of Hubris

The tension between hubris and humility is one of the most serious personal dilemmas faced by the entrepreneur. Hubris, the point at which self-confidence turns into conceit, can be a trap in which we lose our bearings—with destructive consequences for ourselves and many others. To keep in balance, we need to maintain a spiritual anchor and manifest that core in our moral and ethical behavior.

9. Personal Values and Sense of Purpose

The constituents of the entrepreneur are passion, purpose, and positive mindset. The first gives you intensity; the second, direction; the third, attitude. Find your true inner purpose, articulate it, massage it, feel it. Then let it be the conscious template for all of your actions. And by doing so, you will discover and be able to embody your core values.

10. Spiritual Awareness and the Treasure of Meditation

A spiritual anchor is fundamental to our leadership skill, whether or not we are conscious of it. This anchor transcends the external forces of the moment. It permits us to cope with success without losing our humility and to face failure without losing our self esteem. The practice of meditation permits us to quiet our minds and get in touch with our ethical and moral compass. This makes us better leaders.

11. Discernment and the Predicament of Control

The need for control is one of the most pervasive personal issues for many business leaders. While control gives direction to the organization, it can impair our ability to be open to new avenues and opportunities or even to be fully aware of threats and dangers. It can seriously limit our discernment capability and reduce our leadership effectiveness.

12. The Toughest Moments: Layoffs

Circumstances do arise in business life requiring the drastic action of a major reduction in the size of the company. It is one of the worst nightmares I have encountered in my entrepreneurial life. And the hardest part is that a significant layoff sometimes needs to be implemented suddenly, potentially robbing the affected individuals of dignity and a sense of fairness. As part of our covenant with those we invite to join us on the journey, we need to be very sensitive to such a disruptive action and take it only as a last resort.

13. The Dilemma of Changing Roles

Mission, not position, is what matters most in a growing entrepreneurial company. Individual self-interest needs to be left outside the door. Open and clear communication of the company’s mission helps to ensure a nimble, dynamic, and efficient organization regardless of leadership title. Yet there are times when an entrepreneur needs to assert his or her position at the top of the organization to make sure that responsibility and accountability are established and exercised without equivocation.

14. Paradoxical Yet Key Support: The Board of Directors

A board augments the company with the unparalleled and sophisticated expertise of individuals who have lived the business building process and can help navigate the road to success. To maximize the board’s effectiveness, an entrepreneur needs to learn to differentiate between seeing board members as “the boss” and interacting with them as guiding colleagues. Making the most of this relationship requires active management, courteous communication, appropriate acknowledgment, and frequently expressed appreciation of support.

15. The Joy of the Entrepreneurial Journey

Few experiences rival the excitement and fulfillment of building a company. The greatest personal reward comes from touching individual lives while making a difference in society.