Entrepreneurial Leadership: A book review by Bob Morris

Entrepreneurial Leadership: The Art of Launching New Ventures, Inspiring Others, and Running Stuff
Joel Peterson
HarperCollins Leadership (April 2020)

Here’s “a set of principles, mind-sets, and self-talk that may help” to accelerate leadership development

Many (if not most) people think of entrepreneurship in terms of launching a new company. In fact, as the subtitle of Joel Peterson’s book correctly suggests, entrepreneurship includes “new ventures” that could be a new product or service, of course, as well as a new department, market, policy, or procedure. And let’s not forget about new analytics, technologies, research data, and regulatory compliance obligations.

However, not all entrepreneurs are change agents because not all entrepreneurs are — or wish to become [begin italics] leaders [end italics].

In this context, I am again reminded of a GE annual meeting years ago, when its then chairman and CEO — Jack Welch — was asked the reasons why he so highly admired small companies. “For one, they communicate better. Without the din and prattle of bureaucracy, people listen as well as talk; and since there are fewer of them they generally know and understand each other. Second, small companies move faster. They know the penalties for hesitation in the marketplace. Third, in small companies, with fewer layers and less camouflage, the leaders show up very clearly on the screen. Their performance and its impact are clear to everyone. And, finally, smaller companies waste less. They spend less time in endless reviews and approvals and politics and paper drills. They have fewer people; therefore they can only do the important things. Their people are free to direct their energy and attention toward the marketplace rather than fighting bureaucracy.”

These are among the passages of greatest interest to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Peterson’s coverage:

o Prologue: General Stanley A. McChrystal, USA Ret. (Pages ix-xi)
o Building trust within a workplace culture (1-37)
o Building core value(s) within a workplace culture (3-11)
o Rewriting the operational system (12-20)
o Mission statement(s) (41-49)

o Setting goals (50-58)
o Alignment (59-67)
o Workplace culture development (68-75)
o Securing a team (77-113)
o Hiring the right people (79-89)

o Dos and don’ts of effective coaching (97-103)
o Firing with empathy (104-113)
o Delivering results (115-200)
o Decision-making (117-126)
o Raising capital (143-150)

o Effective communication (151-157)
o Governance boards whose members are engaged (167-175)
o Overcoming adversity (176-184)
o Surviving growth (185-192)
o Change management (193-200)

Peterson uses an remarkably effective format when suggesting a four-step for building trust based on mutual respect, creating a compelling mission, and securing a team before shifting his and his reader’s attention to delivering results. He apparently agrees with Thomas Edison: “Vision without execution is hallucination.”  He provides ten “maps,” best viewed as a series of “How tos” to consider when encountering “almost-certain challenges” en route to the ultimate destination, whatever its nature and extent may be.

Keep in mind that not all leaders are entrepreneurs. Many are defenders of the status quo, often hostage to what James O’Toole so aptly characterizes as :”the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.” Others are tyrants whose obsession with power is exceeded only by their insecurities. Also keep in mind that not all entrepreneurs are leaders. They attract admirers, not followers. Perhaps most revealingly, they think and behave almost entirely in terms of first-person SINGULAR pronouns.

Joel Peterson suggests that, with all due respect to entrepreneurship, governance, and management, “it is the entrepreneurial leader who plays the role of change agent in securing enduring enterprises that can eventually be managed and led by others.”

I conclude this brief commentary with my favorite passage in Lao-tse’s Tao Te Ching:

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”


Posted in

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.