It’s one of the oldest maxims in recorded human history: “know thyself.”
As simple as the instruction may seem, the state of knowing oneself is deceptively complex, as volumes of philosophy and social science have explored throughout the centuries and recent decades. In business it is especially important since, typically, many other people are involved, says business leader Randy H. Nelson.
“In business terms, many people think of entrepreneurs and CEOs as interchangeable — as hard-driving because of the initiative it takes to jumpstart a business, but some entrepreneurs, for example, are better at supportive or creative roles, rather than only leadership,” says Nelson.
“A capable CEO adheres more to structure in running a company; he or she is focused on leadership, primarily, but also understands the importance of entrepreneurship. Given these differences, entrepreneurs who want consistent success should consider various career paths after the startup phase, depending on their strengths. Entrepreneurs and CEOs do not require identical criteria for success; they’re different jobs.”
Through experience and three psychological tests — the well-known Myers-Briggs and DISC tests and the breakthrough Personality Research Form — Nelson highlights four major personality types in leadership found in both entrepreneurs and CEOs.
• Urgent/Reactive: “Fix it and forget it” — someone who is always two steps behind. This business personality creates and thrives on an almost crazed atmosphere, where he or she can ride to the rescue, put out the fire, be everybody’s savior, then move on to the next problem. In other words, fix it and forget it. It’s characterized by action without introspective vision and premeditated guidance.
• Ever Optimistic: “Things are great!” — someone who is either one step ahead or one step behind. Many enjoy the company of this sunny leadership type, which features an attractive can-do attitude. Early success in a venture can create or encourage this confidence, which may or may not be justified. Unfortunately, when a good run ends, this personality often doesn’t know how to react.
• Reflexively Pessimistic: “Batten down the hatches!” — someone who is either one step ahead or one step behind. The flip side to blind optimism is reflexive pessimism, the leader who plays not to win, but to survive. Whatever hope there was in the beginning has left in exchange for callouses that were necessary for hard times. The business pessimist is paralyzed by anxiety and doesn’t know how to begin to grow. While he or she may survive the next economic crisis, the leader remains hobbled when times are good.
• Steady/Proactive: “I’m as ready as I can be for the challenges I’ll be facing” — someone who is always two steps ahead. All business leaders should aim for steady and proactive. These are individuals who value productivity above all things and know how to achieve it. They know how to course-correct no matter the weather and know how to balance offense — growth — and defense — survival. These leaders are clear in what they know and don’t know. This person has moved beyond a revenue-only focus and now devotes time and effort to understanding what boosts stock value, using this knowledge to push the valuation ever higher.
Randy H. Nelson is a speaker, a coach, a Qualified Entrepreneur, a former nuclear submarine officer in the U.S. Navy, and author of The Second Decision — The Qualified Entrepreneur. He co-founded and later sold two market-leading, multi-million dollar companies — Orion International and NSTAR Global Services. His proudest professional achievement was at the Fast 50 awards ceremony in the Raleigh, N.C., area when NSTAR, a 10-year-old company, and Orion, a 22-year-old company, were awarded the rankings No. 8 and No. 9, respectively. Nelson now runs Gold Dolphins LLC, a coaching and consulting firm to help entrepreneurial leaders and CEOs become Qualified Entrepreneurs and achieve their maximum potential. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from Miami University, Ohio, and was awarded the Admiral Sidney W. Souers Distinguished Alumni Award there in 2011. www.randyhnelson.com