If you’re an entrepreneur: are you a lone wolf or team builder? Can you be both?
“Lone wolf” doesn’t have to mean “loner.” It can also refer to an individual who leaves the pack to seek out new territory, to become stronger, to foster a new pack—in other words, an entrepreneur.
But the classic traits that make great entrepreneurs are different than the attributes and skills required to build strong teams. It takes conscious effort for typical entrepreneurs to blend their natural lone-wolf tendencies with team-building skills—getting the best of both worlds to become true leaders.
Do you see any of these classic entrepreneurial traits in the mirror?
- Big healthy ego
- Single-minded in purpose
- Resilient and persistent
- Extremely high standards of quality
- High tolerance for risk
- Resistant to feedback
Your employees might use different words for some of these. Perhaps…perfectionist? Poor listener? Monomaniacal? Regardless of the lens you use, this isn’t the profile of an outstanding team builder. Without some redirection, this is the entrepreneur who may be crafting a company, but may also be limiting possibilities by not cultivating the added heft and skills of a strong team.
How can entrepreneurs, with those paradoxical personality traits, drive successfully toward their vision AND build a strong team that eagerly joins them on the journey?
Start by taking a hard look at four aspects of your leadership style.
- Stay conscious of your rank (net sum of your privileges). Remember that you’re the big cheese. You hold the vision, the social and psychological upper-hand, the clout. Stay conscious of how that rank affects relationships and the dynamics in the work environment. If you’re oblivious to the inherent rank you hold, you’re going to bruise people and damage relationships. Stay aware of your rank and use it wisely.
- Care for your team culture. Entrepreneurs can forget that they’re not just building a business. They’re creating a living, breathing culture, along with their team. People, especially young employees in today’s workforce, join—and stick with—cultures. Not companies. Not managers. Maintaining a healthy team culture requires care and attention.
- Solicit and accept feedback. If you’re a died-in-the-wool entrepreneur, this one hurts. You get tired of hearing why something can’t be done. But building a team requires the ability to accept feedback. To hear it, decide what’s useful and what’s not, then respond accordingly. Try listening and saying (even if it’s through gritted teeth), “Thank you for the feedback. I hear you. Keep it coming…” That interaction will enable you, and your team, to grow.
- Lead, follow or get out of the way. As an entrepreneur, you know what you want to create. But do you know what your best role is for any given activity or situation as you drive toward that creation? It’s the fundamental choice of leadership: How do I get the best result or impact here? What is my best and highest purpose in this situation? I constantly consider four options:
- Lead: provide visible and active leadership.
- Follow: encourage leadership by someone on my team and focus my effort on providing support.
- Change: take feedback and view this as a growth opportunity.
- Get out of the way: delegate and let the team member do their stuff.
So, are you a lone wolf or a team-builder? Or both? In the wild, lone wolves may stay solitary or they may seek out and grow a thriving new pack. And that new pack makes the entire wolf population become stronger and healthier.