If your company's revenue growth is slowing down, the solution might be to hire an entrepreneurial leader. As you can imagine, hiring a leader who could become the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates into your company could boost your top line tremendously. It could also put you in the awkward position of struggling to retain control over your company.
Entrepreneurial leaders know when to think and act according to two different mental models. According to Babson College (where I teach), these include predictive logic (where understanding the past can help predict the future) and creative logic (in which leaders try frugal experiments to learn how to succeed in highly uncertain business situations).
However, you should be careful about hiring such entrepreneurial leaders into your company. According to Harvard Business Review, entrepreneurial leaders "thrive in uncertainty, [have] a passionate desire to author and own projects, and [are endowed with a] unique skill at persuasion." By surveying 4,000 successful entrepreneurs and 1,800 general managers, HBR found that the entrepreneurs described were notably different on three of 41 dimensions of leadership.
Hire such leaders if you need them to do a job -- such as turning around an ailing business or creating a new product or service -- where success depends on these traits. Put them in a position where they must follow formal procedures and they'll likely disappoint you.
If you need the right job done, read on for a description of the three dimensions and some questions you can use to screen candidates for entrepreneurial leadership.
1. Thriving In Uncertainty
Entrepreneurial leaders are not just creative -- they crave situations where there is significant uncertainty. They get bored when asked to operate in a highly predictable environment and reach "a heightened state of motivation at the edge of the unknown and the untried."
How do you know whether a candidate thrives in uncertainty? Explore these topics during the interview process:
- Is the candidate more afraid of anxiety or frustration?
- Is the candidate more comfortable asking for forgiveness after taking a risk or permission beforehand?
- Which does the candidate feel is more valuable: imagination or analysis?
- Can the candidate suggest different ways that your company should have launched a recent new product?
The most entrepreneurial leader of the candidates will fear frustration, prefer asking for forgiveness, value imagination over analysis, and suggest meaningful improvements to how your company launched its product.
2. Need For Control Over Projects
Entrepreneurial leaders crave control over the finished product rather than need to dominate other people. According to HBR, "in this way, entrepreneurs have more in common with authors and artists than with dictators."
Some questions to help discover this trait:
- Has the candidate been a founder rather than a follower?
- Did the candidate seek creative control and advance through opportunistic choices rather than steady promotions?
- Does the candidate seek to describe a vision for how the job could best be done?
- Does the candidate believe that failure of leadership or a lack of collaboration most contributes to the failure of a new venture?
Entrepreneurial leaders are founders, seek creative control, make opportunistic choices, have a vision and seek to share it with others, and believe that leadership is most critical for entrepreneurial success.
3. Outstanding Sales Ability
Successful entrepreneurs persuade others of a venture's potential for success with little evidence and powerful emotion. Such sales ability helps them hire top talent, raise capital, and convince customers to buy their product.
Here are three questions that could help you test whether a candidate has the sales ability you need:
- How did the candidate handle a particularly challenging sales experience?
- How did the candidate change the opinion of others in a particularly important life situation?
- How does the candidate's approach to persuading a group of executive peers differ from their approach to selling to a customer?
If your candidate answers these questions with evidence of successful outcomes and a powerful means of achieving that success, then they have the sales ability you need.
If your business needs a jolt of growth, use these tips to hire entrepreneurial leaders.