The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “What leadership style should every entrepreneur try to adopt?” is written by Promise Phelon, CEO of TapInfluence.
Every entrepreneur is different, and how you lead will be based on your experiences, personal outlook, and unique strengths. There is no one-size-fits-all to leading a team or growing a business. Defining and refining your own leadership style starts with looking at examples of great leaders from your own life and then identifying and refining your strengths. To become a successful entrepreneur, you need mentors to provide the model, champions to help you harness your innate strengths, and partners to be your complementary opposite once you’re clear about your own superpower.
Mentors are all about “me.” They’ll tell you stories and use their experiences as an example of what worked for them and what didn’t in situations similar to what you may be experiencing. A relationship with a mentor will help you develop your leadership construct by getting the real talk on how specific decision patterns worked for them. That’s why it’s so important to find the right mentors who have different patterns from which you can learn. Their examples will be the foundation for the kind of leader you become. They should be people you look up to as models for success—whose leadership styles resonate with you. At first you’ll mimic their style, soon you’ll grow into your own, and hopefully you’ll also learn from their mistakes.
The champions are all about “you.” These are the people in your life who believe in you, are just as excited about fulfilling your potential as you are, and are committed to helping you realize your potential. They will stand up for you, dive into the trenches when necessary, and go to bat for your ideas. Where your mentor is the model, your champion is all about helping you discover what’s inside of you and turning it into something meaningful. Your champion is like the coach or teacher who sees the absolute best in you and pushes you to become more comfortable and confident with who you are as a leader. These are very rare, and it goes without saying that these relationships require you be respectful of their time, coachable, open-minded, thankful, and hard working so that they continue to make time and resource investments.
Once you know what you’re good at and understand your own strengths, dig in, get confident, and you’ll quickly discover areas where you need balance and support. At this point, you look for partners. Partners are about “we.” They are the people you’ll work most closely with and they should be strong in the areas that you consider your weaknesses. For me, I’m decisive. When I see an opportunity, I attack it. Acting quickly can be a strength, but it can also cut both ways. To ensure the most successful outcome, I look to my partners for a different perspective. Having multiple points of view enables us to uncover and recognize weaknesses in our approach. It also gives us time to capitalize on our collective knowledge so we can pivot when we need to.
There is no business book that can tell you how to be a great leader. It’s all about finding your own style through a process of self-discovery. Early in my career, I was fortunate to have a champion who recruited me into tech, took me under her wing professionally, and challenged me to be a great entrepreneur. Today, my champions are a stellar board of directors who have an equal incentive for me and my company to win.
We all have our own unique skills and talents, and those strengths are what lead us to launch our businesses in the first place. But no one is good at everything, and understanding this is critical. I truly believe that everyone should do exactly what they are positioned to do and nothing more. The key is to discover what’s already inside and play to your own natural strengths. Start by modeling your mentors, reinforce your strengths with your champions, and augment them through partners whose strengths complement your own. Your interactions with these three groups of people will shape who you are as a leader. And leading from your authentic strengths will help you attract the team that will support and drive business success.