As a successful entrepreneur, you know you need a compelling vision, the drive and dedication to realise it, and the knack of bringing other people along with you, be they employees, customers or investors.
In other words, for your business to thrive, you need to be ready, able and willing to lead. But what does that mean in practice? And how can you ensure your leadership capacities grow and mature with your business?
Not only juggling, but also…
Running your own business demands not just the ability to multitask without dropping any of the balls you’re juggling, but a whole ring full of circus skills.
- The balance, calm and awareness of a tightrope walker to assess the level of innovation your markets welcome with enthusiasm
- The empathy, courage and alertness of a lion-tamer to manage the demands of your customers and investors
- The improvisation skills, resilience and self-deprecation of a clown to keep the people you work with motivated and on task.
As your company grows and matures you and your co-founders need to delegate ever increasing percentages of your plate-spinning. You have to trust others with implementing your vision and delivering your goals. You become the ringmasters (irrespective of your gender), ensuring everyone has enough of your time and attention to fulfill their roles effectively, while you maintain the overall perspective, keep the show on the road – and all without cracking a whip.
Organisational life is not static. Markets fluctuate, products and services evolve and competitors appear. You may worry and read articles on why businesses fail (see evidence by reading examples through the New York Times, Forbes and Fast Company). You are clear that sustainable business success requires wise, communicative and adaptable leadership. This means that your leadership skills need to evolve along with your business and its environment.
Skills for leading a 21st century enterprise
So how do you keep developing as a leader while simultaneously meeting business demands? The bad news is that there will always be 24 hours in a day and seven days in a week. The good news is that working with a business school can make a huge difference.
Business schools have people who combine academic teaching and learning with real-world business experience and nous – supported by recent research. They explore, and then share the latest leadership tools and techniques: those that have been shown to make a positive impact on company successes.
Why work with a business school?
Business schools – particularly those embedded in universities offering a broader, work focused curriculum – can provide key resources for entrepreneurs and leaders of all commercial enterprises. At Westminster Business School, for instance, we run short courses, longer-term development programmes and provide research and project funding opportunities through Knowledge Transfer Partnerships. We enjoy working with entrepreneurs, business leaders and their teams as much as they enjoy and benefit from working with us. As we learn more about each other, develop closer working relationships and explore ideas, approaches and practices together, the benefits are greater for all involved.
Each university or business school will have an enterprise department or business team who’ll be delighted to talk with you. They ensure courses and learning opportunities can be focused to meet your specific needs. Sometimes, the best way of achieving this is by creating a programme that’s exclusive to your company. Other times, you’ll gain more by joining one of our open courses, where you can benefit from the expertise of business school facilitators, as well as through networking with other participants, learning from their experiences and doing business with them.
Opportunities can range, for example, from the high-impact half-day "Leadership Workshops" Westminster Business School offers, which provide practical leadership tools and techniques you can apply in your workplace the next day (or later the same evening, if you’re that way inclined) to our innovative new MSc Leadership. This is a modular programme, designed specifically for people in leadership positions. During the 18-month programme participants investigate, address and reflect on the business challenges they face in real-time, as the main elements of their learning.
Your future talent
And don’t forget that business schools are buzzing with students, many of whom are actively seeking projects, internships and work experience opportunities. They have new and up-to-date skills that they’re dying to put into practice, as well as enthusiasm for learning. Just a week’s work experience can provide both students and business with new ideas and different avenues to explore. Developing networks with both undergraduate and postgraduate students can add real value to your business, raise your profile generally and mark you out as an employer of choice.
So, what are you waiting for? If you haven’t already, make contact with your local business school and find out how you can work together to ensure that your business has the leadership skills it needs to grow and develop through the 21st century and beyond. You might also find someone who is good at juggling too, leaving you to concentrate on other tasks, such as tightrope walking and lion-taming.