Entrepreneurial Dynamic Leadership Process Self-Reflection
I have found the Entrepreneurial Dynamic Leadership Process (EDLP) model to be very helpful and relevant in reviewing my own leadership experiences and behaviors so far in my life. I really appreciate the model's emphasis on self-leadership. Leaders must first lead themselves in order for others to follow, or for them to inspire others to action, including their own leadership. I especially enjoy the metaphor of self-leadership as the toolbox, and the other leadership styles as tools.
I also find the idea of leadership styles as something that one can pick and choose from, rather than simply have a style that one is stuck with and have to try and adapt to circumstances, to be liberating and even empowering. Until this point in my life, I had thought of one's leadership style as an aspect of one's self, like height, personality or intelligence that cannot be changed substantially. Either you have it or you do not. I have thought of those characteristics as inherited -- either by genes or developed by early experience, as largely immutable as adults, and stable. However, now I am coming to discover that this is not true. All of these things -- personality, intelligence, and leadership styles, are changeable. Sometimes they change over time without effort, and sometimes they can be changed with hard work. This deliberate shifting is the core of the Entrepreneurial Dynamic Leadership Process, using different leadership styles in a considered strategy.
With this new information, I try and consider which of the four styles of leadership is appropriate for the situation and summon that within myself. Charismatic leadership, seeming confident and powerful, is great for the beginning of projects, and for the entirety of small projects. This style is not necessarily my strength. I am more someone who likes to work and support behind the scenes, enjoying the success of the work itself rather than the personality behind it. But having a bigger personality and inspiring others to see the greater vision behind the project is something that I can work on, and the process of growing in my leadership skills is also something that I can learn from, and hinge the learning of others from. Realizing that I do not have to be a perfect leader, or that being a good leader involves showing yourself in a growing process.
Transformational leadership includes creating a relationship of trust and loyalty between the leader and those that are led. It includes aligning values and vision with the leader. I think that in many cases, this does not only include employees, but also customers. Clients and customers are also people those who are led in the business process. I think this is especially true in the new business market social networking, seemingly limitless consumer input, and viral marketing. I think it is vital to not consider the company as an entity that ends at the door. Companies are changing -- they do not show the same loyalty to employees, and customers do not show the same kind of fidelity to a brand. Instead, what it means to be socially responsible is not just a marketing problem, but also a matter of evolving values and inputs.
Empowerment is the most important leadership style for when a project is ending. It is helping other people realize their own power. It is not only about giving people power, but helping them create the personal qualities that they need to use that power. There is a way in which this process is circular because the last stage involves helping others develop their own "self leadership" skills, the skill the leader used to start the project.
However, the aspect of the EDLP model, which I think is harder to implement is the notion of stages, and what kind of leadership is appropriate for what moment. Unless one is implementing a formal business plan, it is startlingly difficult to know what stage of a process one is participating in. Is this the beginning of a long process, or the end of a short one, or in the middle somewhere? In class projects, this is less of an issue. I am not worried that my classmates really need my aggressive, confident, charismatic, empowering leadership. My classmates are all working on those skills as well. And projects do not last full years, so precisely deciding what phase of the project we are on, and modifying my leadership style to suit that, deliberately implementing Entrepreneurial Dynamic Leadership Process, would be inappropriate.
Several things that I have discovered about my personal entrepreneurial leadership profile that are surprising to me. I have discovered that I tend towards the common error of the mom-and-pop entrepreneur -- trying to and maintaining strict control over the enterprise they have created, and this can restrict the growth of what I want to do to a size that I can control it alone, so that I do not need to give up control to anyone. I have realized that I need to learn to be a "serial entrepreneur," and be ready to hand off my projects and delegate to others so I can create something new. In the future, I am hoping to learn more about planning and implementing an "exit strategy," so I can engage in many different projects over my career. Holding onto one project can limit my success.
The most important learning and insight for me in learning about myself in the Entrepreneurial Dynamic Leadership Process model has been a broader lesson. I am surprised to discover the degree to which the models can actually reflect me. I think it is easy to think of myself as an exception, but seeing myself as part of a model helps me be humble and opens me. It helps me realize that the wisdom that others in business have already struggled to develop can be helpful to me as well. One of the most common mistakes people make that keep them unhappy is overestimating the difference between themselves and everyone else. We have minds that focus us upon difference, and this is often a great cognitive strategy. However, in making decisions about our lives, we would be better served by making decisions based on looking around us, seeing what people are happy, and making choices similar to their own. Our insistence on our own uniqueness is a cognitive distortion that keeps us making choices, and not learning from the similarities that unite all human beings.
With this attitude of increased openness to learning about how I may in fact be helped by learning about human beings in general, I also gained a lot from the entrepreneurial learning article. Though sometimes there seems like a trade-off between learning about a particular business with its quirks, and learning about business in general (depth vs. breadth), in reality learning deeply about a number of different businesses can help learning about business in general.
This process has also led me to think about what personality qualities are necessary for entrepreneurship, which often also seems to reflect two ends of a spectrum. On one hand, courage and zest are necessary to take risks, and perseverance is necessary to meet goals, but on the other it is important to know when to give up a project and cut losses.
Entrepreneurs must also learn from a number of different inputs, practically everything. Entrepreneurs need to learn from experience. Entrepreneurs need to learn from others. Entrepreneurs need to direct their own learning. It feels like entrepreneurs need to learn from and do everything. It sometimes seems that what it means to be an entrepreneur, or what it means when you are taught about it, is just the same as being an excellent human being. But I am not sure that entrepreneurs are…