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An Entrepreneurial Mindset is Essential for Leaders

An Entrepreneurial Mindset is Essential for Leaders

In my work as an executive leadership coach, I often help candidates prepare for job interviews. Even seasoned leaders are asked to define their leadership philosophy and give examples of their management in action when vying for a new role.

While every role will require nuanced experience and subject matter expertise relevant to the opportunity, I believe an entrepreneurial mindset is essential for all leaders. You need not be a founder of a start-up company or a business owner to think and act like an entrepreneur. You can tap and hone these intrapreneurial skills in any organization.

An entrepreneurial leader whom I admire greatly is Pat East, Executive Director of The Dimension Mill – a co-work community helping individuals and businesses find their mojo and do their best work. I’m channeling Pat’s wisdom and sharing the entrepreneurial traits he believes can be learned and honed to help you pursue a fulfilling career and to groom others in your sphere of influence. I believe these are also essential qualities for excellent leaders.


A hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something. The pandemic has forced us to live in a state of ambiguity, and optimism can be a guiding light during uncertain times and constant change. Optimism hones the art of the possible.


Empowers you to achieve. This multi-layered competency includes:

  • Commitment – being true to your word.
  • Taking care of yourself – honor your mind, body, spirit, and wellbeing.
  • Setting boundaries – personal and professional limits that align with your values.
  • Clearly defining goals – specificity adds to the greater possibility of accomplishment.
  • Honoring deadlines – practice "good enough to go" by being brave not perfect.


Enables you to think critically and rationally and step out of your comfort zone to consider other ideas and perspectives.

[Related: Keep At It: Pushing Through the Struggles of DE&I Work]

Competitive spirit.

The healthiest form of competition is to focus on your personal best. A competitive spirit can spark creativity, motivate you, increase productivity, and shed insight into how you navigate your strengths and blind spots.


Your inner drive to take action. This pushes you to keep going and be self-directed and proactive instead of relying on others to tell you what to do. It takes moxie and inner hutzpah to design your path forward.

Willingness to fail.

Fail forward, fast, and often. Learn from each mistake and hone your resiliency. Approach each day with a beginner’s mind and learn to innovate and build resilience with each fabulous fail. Leaders who create an environment of psychological safety destigmatize failure and empower others to try new things.


Celebrate the successful exploitation of new ideas that lead to efficiency, effectiveness, and a competitive edge. Challenge your colleagues and organization to do things that will add value and improvement.

[Related: Imposter Syndrome - At the Best of Times - Was Still the Worst]


Tap your inner grit – your firmness of mind and spirit and your unyielding courage in the face of challenge.


Adjust to change quickly and calmly so you can deal with unexpected problems and tasks effectively.


Use your creative brainpower to be clever, original, and inventive.

Action bias.

In the spirit of design thinking, put your plan into action even as an early-stage prototype to test drive and iterate. Action leads to growth and results – inaction leads to analysis paralysis.

Whether you are honing your leadership skills or interviewing your prospective leader for a new career opportunity you are considering – be mindful of the importance of an entrepreneurial spirit.

[Related: Guidance From Top Talent Recruiters on How to Make the Most of This Moment]


Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name. She is Vice President of Career Coaching and Employer Connections for the Ivy Tech Community College system and contributes to Thrive Global, Ellevate Network, Medium, and The Chronicle newspaper in Indiana. Her online video series about career and life empowerment for women is on YouTube. She hosts the three-time award winning podcast, Your Working Life, on iTunes, Spotify, and SoundCloud. Follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter. Her TEDxWOMEN talk about reframing failure and defining success on your own terms is available on YouTube.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.


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