By Christopher Poulos
Here at vpUSA, we highly value a trait we call Entrepreneurial Leadership. It is one of the hallmarks of our company culture. Chris Poulos, an Ambassador with an impressive entrepreneurial background, sheds some very eloquent light on what entrepreneurial leadership really is, and what it means to vpUSA employees… Thanks Chris!
Amongst the countless philosophical discussions on the life of excellence, we consistently arrive at poignant, burning questions with no clear answers. What is the best way to choose? How should I act? How do I think in order to be at my best? How do I love? And in my opinion, what should I have for breakfast? Some think these questions are best understood when embellished by circumstantial context; however, others might say, in reducing these questions to particulars, we lose sight of the beauty of the whole. I would say getting our hands dirty with life’s particulars, while maintaining a clear vision of the big picture is certainly a chapter out of the book of living excellently. It is a delicate balance that requires a great deal of insight to maintain.
So what? What does this mean for the entrepreneurial leader? It may simply mean never losing sight of the corporate engine’s moving parts once the car has started. Yet it also means something more. It requires another level of awareness — not only one that delves into the nuts and bolts or one that remains focused on the larger picture. It is an awareness of the whole, its particulars, and a conscious awareness of the awareness of all these former elements. Analogically, it is a deeply-rooted understanding that the car is running — thus ultimately knowing how well it is functioning by constantly being aware of all its contextual elements, large and small. It’s not merely knowing how all the car parts are integrated, but also having the necessary focus to know how the car should run when it is operating at its best — and knowing if and when the car is due for a tune up. The hard part is keeping it all on one’s mind all the time — being aware of the awareness. We’re talking a dream within a dream people (Inception reference anybody?).
One of the most interesting contemporary philosophers, Anthony De Mello once wrote, “It isn’t falling in the river that causes you to drown; it’s staying in.” To the entrepreneurial leader, and to the philosopher, self-awareness is key. Falling doesn’t necessitate drowning, just as setbacks do not necessitate major downfall. Knowing the difference is quite beneficial. As Captain Planet would say, “The power is yours!”
Okay, so this philosophical awareness thing — this openness to higher levels of understanding, whether considering particular or larger contexts sounds pretty important to the entrepreneurial leader. How does one hone the skill? Where’s the how to book? If entrepreneurial leadership of this sort came in book form everyone would have a copy. But even if it did, not everyone would understand how difficult of a learning process it entails.
For starters the philosophical leader looks to others in society for ethical and political guidance. Aristotle made it clear in his works that virtue is a mean between excess and deficiency, and in consistently choosing that mean, one would be considered one of the great individuals in society. But, learning that decision that ought to be consistently made meant looking to elders as role models and surrounding oneself with individuals who sought after the same goal. Similarly, aspiring entrepreneurial leaders find themselves reading books and watching videos of the great entrepreneurs of our time to learn more about how they thought — how they became aware of the world both small and large through the many questions which kept them awake at night. Thus, good entrepreneurial leadership, just like good ethics and/or philosophical awareness, takes lots and lots of practice and constant reminding.
Lastly, acting as the entrepreneurial leader requires inspiring others to lead in a similar fashion. I will end on a pithy parable from De Mello:
Said the governor, “Is there any advice you can give me in the exercise of my office?”
“Yes. Learn how to give orders.”
“So that others can receive them without feeling inferior,” said the Master.
Constant awareness, and practice, practice, practice…