Entrepreneurial Leadership: Thinking Fast, While Executing Slowly

November 13, 2014

Thinking Fast as an Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurial leaders are open-minded, energetic, and always questioning. They ask:

  • How can we do it better?
  • Where should we go from here?
  • What is preventing us from taking action, and how can it be overcome?
  • Couldn’t we do this and that?
These questions lead to millions of ideas, and entrepreneurial leaders tend to see opportunities everywhere! And, of course, they want to act on them. More specifically, they want others to act on these ideas for them.
Where entrepreneurs see opportunities, their coworkers (particularly those who have worked with the entrepreneur closest and longest) often see barriers. They respond:
  • But what about this?
  • Let’s say we do that. What do we do when this happens as a result?
  • We’re already overextended. We’re not in a position to try that now.
  • Didn’t so and so already try that?
Executing Slowly
Entrepreneurs are great at generating ideas, but they’re not so great at putting on the brakes. Thankfully, most entrepreneurs have the sense to hire a #2 who acts as the brake pedal and knows when and how to filter out the truly great ideas from the truly mediocre and the truly damaging.
Still, tension can and does arise around the pace of execution.
Entrepreneurs think:
  • What is taking so long?
  • Didn’t I already provide a solution for this problem?
  • I’ve generated a million great ideas. How come none of them appear to be getting off the ground?
  • Is anybody really listening to me?
  • I need more people like me around who appreciate and generate good new ideas.

Meanwhile, the entrepreneur’s coworkers (especially trusty old #2) thinks:

  • Does the entrepreneur have any idea how much work is involved in making this change?
  • Why is the entrepreneur working so hard to create new products and services rather than working on our actual business?
  • Why am I not getting the credit I deserve for running the actual business and putting out all the fires the entrepreneur causes?
  • Why is the entrepreneur circumventing the organizational hierarchy?

Both entrepreneurs and their coworkers get burned out–one from applying the gas and the other from applying the brakes.

Burnout Prevention

Entrepreneurial leaders need to get more realistic about how long it takes to go from a fast idea to the slow burn of execution.

Execution takes time. Those who have attempted to lose weight know that it’s hard to keep up the early pace and energy. It’s hard to get up every day at 5:30a.m. to go for a run, log onto myfitnesspal.com, journal every morsel you eat, avoid late-night sugar temptations or a side of fries at lunch, and track every step and calorie burned using a BodyMedia.com device. It gets tiring, and it gets old, and it’s just plain hard work. And the rewards and results are not always what you hope at the outset.

Entrepreneurial leaders need to recall these types of experiences–challenges that they undertook that didn’t go quickly and easily.

And entrepreneurial leaders need to respect and reward their coworkers who excel at execution and providing complementary skills.

The biggest mistake entrepreneurial leaders tend to make is to hire people just like them, who are good at generating ideas, but poor at executing them. Too many entrepreneurial types at the top of an organization tends to spell disaster–no matter how exciting and charismatic they might be!

If you’re an entrepreneurial leader, keep the ideas coming fast, but be patient about the execution.



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