The First Leadership Skill Every Entrepreneur Should Learn
Entrepreneurs tend to be single-minded, a little obsessive (in a good way!), and completely convinced of their own vision. In the face of obstacles, this tunnel vision can be a very good thing, but if it is not tempered, it can also be an entrepreneur’s biggest weakness. In fact, the singular focus of an entrepreneur may even bring about “founder’s syndrome” and, eventually, the downfall of the business itself.
Founder’s syndrome can afflict any entrepreneur. What happens is that the needs of the business start to outgrow the entrepreneur’s personal capabilities. Rather than owning up to their shortcomings and seeking support, the entrepreneur feels threatened and actually tightens the reigns. They become closed to outside inspiration, ideas, and input. Any attempt to question their approach is seen as dissent, and they refuse to delegate authority, which prevents the business from growing and evolving.
Don’t assume you’re immune. Founder’s syndrome is a common occupational hazard, and research shows that 80 percent of entrepreneurs are forcibly replaced with more experienced managers by their investors due to some version of founder’s syndrome.
However, there is a way to combat founder’s syndrome. At regular intervals — perhaps every year — founders should be appraising their own performances and assessing their own strengths, weaknesses, and limitations, maybe with the help of a mentor. Weaknesses should be improved upon or delegated to more competent people.
When you delegate, you may feel like you are giving up something great — e.g., your control of your own company — but doing so will actually make you more successful as a leader. Delegation will also make your business more effective.
Even though delegation is a necessary in all businesses, managers and leaders everywhere — not just entrepreneurs — struggle the psychological and practical process of delegation.
Delegation isn’t a natural skill for many of us, so here are a few tips to help entrepreneurs — and others — learn how to delegate more effectively.
Beware of Perfectionism
One of the biggest barriers to delegation is the fear that the person you are handing the job to won’t do it as well as you. That may sometimes be true, but taking the perfectionist approach could really harm your attempts to delegate.
Experts suggest that as long as a person can do a task 70 percent as well as you can, let them do it. Why?
To start, once you show a person you trust their ability by delegating a task to them, you will likely motivate that person to perform even better. Perhaps they would have been 70 percent as good as you, but now they’re 80 or 90 percent — or even your equal.
Also, as a person becomes more familiar with the task, they will become more efficient. They may even eventually find a way to do the task more efficiently than you.
A perfectionist view of delegation — i.e., requiring the person taking the task to be 100 percent as good as you — could leave you in constant state of overload, thereby damaging your ability to lead and your business’s ability to thrive.
Let Go of Your Pride
Another big psychological barrier to delegation is pride. It can feel demoralizing and humiliating to have to admit failure in an area.
Perhaps you’ve always regarded yourself as a great presenter and pitcher, but sales figures suggest you are not. It’s not easy to accept that you are not as great as you thought you were or that you may have to relinquish some responsibility. It can seem like a sign of defeat.
Actually, however, delegation is a sign of victory.
It takes courage to acknowledge your shortcomings. Furthermore, you are still very much in control when you delegate. You set the goals, and if the person who has taken up the task doesn’t meet those goals, you have the power to replace them.
Given how crucial the process of delegation is to the founder’s entrepreneurial journey, the ability to relinquish your power when necessary is perhaps the most important lesson the entrepreneur must learn.