Leadership is one of the most important qualities a young entrepreneur needs to develop. Almost every successful entrepreneur out there will tell you that leadership is a key component of how they made it to the top.
But the word “leadership” seems so general. What does it mean? How can you apply leadership qualities to your unique entrepreneurial style and personal strengths?
WHAT LEADERSHIP IS
At its most basic, deconstructed definition, leadership is “…the ability of an individual or a group of individuals to influence and guide followers or other members of an organization.” This means that a good leader inspires, listens, and solves problems.
Young entrepreneurs like you need to find their natural strengths and develop those into strong leadership styles. Keep in mind that these styles are not meant to define your entire personality. You probably contain different qualities from a variety of leadership styles. Whether working on a group project or hiring employees to help you start your business, take what works for you and use it to your advantage!
THE DEMOCRATIC LEADER
- Preferring to work in groups
- Being open to other ideas and debate
- Letting everyone have a say
Democratic leaders value the input of everyone on the team. In a large corporation, this could mean giving the administrators and entry-level employees a chance to speak up and be heard. For young entrepreneurs, democratic leaders prefer to work in groups where everyone gets an equal say in the project’s direction. Make no mistake, though: a democratic leader is still a leader and has to make the final decision. These types of leaders are perfect for team projects at pre-college or afterschool business programs.
THE AUTOCRATIC LEADER
Autocratic leaders are the opposite of democratic leaders. With autocrats, there’s not a lot of room for other people’s input. They are results-driven. They know what the goal is, the best way to get there, and aren’t open to other ideas. This is the leader you want to be in an emergency because autocrats tend to be laser-focused on getting from Point A to Point B. If you’re an autocratic leader, having a team that trusts you can be great for your self-esteem so long as you treat them with respect. This type of leader probably wants to start their own online business and only hire others as needed.
- Being supportive
- Helping others discover their strengths
- Creating a positive environment
Those of you who play sports already know the value of a good coach. Leaders who are coaches know how to get the best performance out of their team. They know everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. They know how the team performs together under a variety of circumstances. As a good coach leader, you inspire others to work harder. This type of leader makes great camp counselors or tutors.
THE LAISSEZ-FAIRE LEADER
- Stepping back
- Creative freedom
- Trusting others
“Laissez-faire,” (pronounced “leh-say-fare”) literally means, “allow to do.” As leadership styles go, this one is about as laid-back as they come. The laissez-faire leader trusts their employees to get the job done without a lot of micromanaging. However, problems arise with this style when laissez-faire becomes just plain laziness. Remember that teams and employees need guidance and structure. A good job for laissez-faire style leaders would be babysitting or volunteering at a science museum for kids.
THE VISIONARY LEADER
- Stepping outside the comfort zone
If you consider yourself a young entrepreneur, then you probably already have at least a little bit of visionary leadership style! Visionaries see what’s possible and inspire others to make positive changes. They are the consummate “out-of-the-box” thinkers who’ve never met a challenge they couldn’t handle. Like democratic leaders, good visionaries value input. Yet, like autocrats, they also believe in their own abilities to get the job done. The world needs more visionaries!
- Reward systems
- Established roles
When you were younger, did your parents set up a reward system for good behavior or good grades? Did your teachers? That is the essence of a managerial style of leadership. Like a coach, a manager wants to get the best performance possible out of their employees or teammates. Unlike a coach, a manager provides a tactile reward when expectations are met, such as a monetary bonus or promotion. When your parents offer to buy you a new computer if you get straight-A’s all semester, that’s managerial leadership. For young entrepreneurs, managers make good interns because they appreciate structure, hierarchy, and recognition for hard work.
- Solid results
- High standards
Like autocrats, pacesetters are driven by results. They want numbers, facts, and statistics. They want to win. They set high goals for themselves and their teams. Because of these qualities, pacesetters can be tough to work for. Teammates and employees may see them as cold and robot-like in their quest for achievement. They are also the opposite of the laissez-faire leaders and tend to step in when work isn’t getting done the way they think it should be done. Still, no one can doubt that pacesetters do get the job done. Pacesetter leadership is great for young entrepreneurs leading a team through competition.
If you’re still not sure what your leadership style is, or if you feel like all these styles could apply to you, don’t stress! Everyone has a little bit of each type of style in them. Different events, contexts, and people require different styles of leadership. For a school group project, you might be a democratic leader because you’re all in this together to achieve the same grade. But when building your business you might be an autocratic leader because you know what you want and how to get there.
Now is the time to experiment with different leadership styles. Some may come naturally to you. They feel good and they get results. Other styles will feel forced or insincere. Work with your strengths, be mindful of your weaknesses, and remember to be respectful and appreciative of your teammates and employees!
If you are a high school student in Florida with a passion for entrepreneurship, click here to find out more about the Kantner Foundation’s college scholarship program.