Entrepreneurs are a breed apart; single-minded, passionate, innovative, often disruptive individuals characterised by their fearless attitude to risk and determination to get results.
As their start-up grows, and new people join the team, the founder faces the prospect of taking on the mantle of leader, putting their aspirations and their ability to motivate people to the test.
Some resist the change, seeing their primary role as driving the development engine and looking to a business partner with strong leadership skills to handle that side of building and running of the business.
Others, however, argue that the most successful entrepreneurs are those who are prepared to stretch themselves to take on the responsibilities of leadership.
As Doron Cohen, CEO of business payments service Covercy points out, entrepreneurs quickly realise that creating and leading the right team is essential to leading their company to success.
He says: “This realisation informs how you act as a leader and forges a collaborative relationship with your staff. As talented as you can be on your own, without colleagues challenging your ideas and assumptions, you will not be as successful as you can be if you have the right team.”
Having got successful businesses off the ground alone, some young entrepreneurs have flourished in their role as a people motivator. Ted Nash is the 25 year-old founder of in-app advertising platform Tapdaq. Set up in 2012, the company now has 14 staff. Nash, who has been creating successful companies since the age of 12, describes his leadership style as focused on self-empowerment and collaboration.
He says: “I love seeing individuals grow, so to lead and motivate them to achieve more is definitely what creates the best results for them, personally and professionally. I truly believe through working together you can take each other much further. To quote a great African proverb: ‘If you want to walk fast walk alone, if you want to walk far, walk together.’”
Interestingly, while many of today’s successful entrepreneurs have been inspired by great business leaders and entrepreneurial role models, they don’t necessarily intend to emulate their leadership style.
Nash adds: “No two journeys to success are the same, and I would go as far as to say it's dangerous to try and mould to someone else's mantra. I think the best leaders evolve to build a culture that works best for the environment that enables them to succeed. That said, I have a lot of respect for leaders who have achieved monumental success in different industries, and there is a lot you can learn from other people's failures.”
Modern entrepreneurs seem to have their own ideas of what leadership means. They may not aspire to lead teams in the autocratic, heroic style of yesteryear, but their typically high levels of emotional intelligence and natural adeptness at handling interpersonal relationships fairly and with empathy, definitely mark them out as high calibre leadership material in today’s business world. They just don’t always recognise it.
Gareth says: “Personally, I’m not aware of any specific strategies or terminology that would define how I would lead a team. I could only adapt methods from personal experiences in previous jobs. I’d like to think that I would be supportive by making it clear from the start that I am approachable with any issues of any magnitude. Another important element is bringing your fun side. The best way to bond with a team is by making it fun or having a laugh with them. It really helps to develop a bond and to put your team at ease and in turn it will bring out their best work.”
Do modern entrepreneurs aspire to become leaders? Are they as attracted to the idea of motivating people as they are working on their next prototype? Some, like 19-year-old Aadil Seedat, operations director and senior manager of cloud hosting company Umbrella Host definitely are.
Sadat, who is also ambassador of the Young Entrepreneur Networking Association Manchester, where he holds free networking events for young entrepreneurs, says: “As a teenage entrepreneur my intention is to be a leader in my industry and to be at the forefront of the best of the industry competitors. I know what it takes to get there, but it is a matter of efficiency and resources.”
Next generation entrepreneurs are facing pressures and challenges on an unprecedented scale, and while they may not consciously appraise their own leadership capabilities, or even harbour ambitions to be recognised as great business leaders, they have an innate understanding that it will take a united, passionate, and highly motivated team to deliver long term business success, and making that happen takes a special kind of leader.