Within every business is a variety of people that perform critical leadership functions during each phase of that organization’s life cycle. As a leader, you can perform several leadership functions at the same time and keep super busy, but ultimately you want a life of freedom and the ability to choose what you want to do, with whom, and where. Let’s look at the definitions and mindsets of each type of business leadership function to clearly identify who you are now and where you want to go.
Business Leadership Functions
A Business Owner owns, runs, and leads a small business, usually performing multiple leadership roles as visionary, day-to-day manager, and subject matter expert. Some are working business owners who basically “own” a job by doing most the work required, even if they have a few employees. They have all of the responsibilities, liabilities, and stress of an owner without being able to appreciate the vast benefits of being an owner. Most of these folks own micro-businesses and work from home or executive offices. Others are lifestyle business owners who have developed a highly functioning business that generates steady income and gives freedom to take vacations and build some wealth. Still, they are running the day-to-day operations, even with some processes and executive talent in place.
An Entrepreneur launches or leads organizations that are growing, scalable, and organized in a purposeful attempt to provide maximum long-term value to their primary stakeholders: customers, employees, and themselves and/or their investors. By weighing the risk and reward factors and focusing on the continuing cultivation and development of the 3 P’s (Plans, Processes, and People), entrepreneurs are the architects and builders of their business, their lives, and their prosperity. Their efforts are designed to create successful companies that will someday not require their direct management or skills as a subject matter expert. Entrepreneurs eventually want to sell/exit or become an investor in the business.
An Investor is an owner (part or full) of a business, but who does not participate in the day-to-day operations of their investments. They do not carry the labor or management responsibilities, but they know what is going on with the business they own. These investors are not only focused on their financial return on investment, they also understand and measure the triple bottom line of social, environmental, and financial returns.
A Wheeler-Dealer engages in business scheming and is not always honest in their dealings. These people are clever and shrewd at finding ways to close deals, make money, and leverage opportunities. Many wheeler-dealers are considered entrepreneurial because of their apparent business savvy or social intelligence, but they rely on charm, networking, and cunning to make things happen and may quickly move from one opportunity to another. There is hope for these individuals; reformed wheeler-dealers, like myself, can become productive entrepreneurs through mentorship and learning the importance of focus and value rather than scheming and short-term profits.
A Manager is the glue of every successful business and entrepreneurial enterprise, acting as problem solver, project manager, people motivator, and tactical decision maker. Responsible for managing staff, customer expectations, financial results, and delivery of products and services on a day-to-day basis, managers are on the front line and most responsible for generating customer loyalty and consistent results from employees. Every organization, regardless of size and complexity, must have managers in each of the necessary departments of their organizational structure: sales, marketing, business development, operations, finance, and human resources. Most small business owners act as managers in one or more of these areas.
A Subject Matter Expert is an authority in a specific domain that requires significant experience, ongoing training, and applied knowledge. These skilled specialists are professionals (accountant, programmer, plumber, auto mechanic, architect, sales manager, etc.) who are highly regarded and paid specifically for their extraordinary level of proficiency.
A Technician is a skilled worker who is an integral part of a production or operational process. Many business owners start out as a subject matter expert or technician and at some point decide to launch their own business when they realize they want greater control of their time, decision making, and earnings. Whether as a business owner or employee, skilled technicians are necessary business leadership functions to offer value-added services and products and differentiate themselves from their competitors.
A Supervisor (Team Leader) manages small teams with very specific goals and objectives in mind. Supervisors are usually talented technicians or subject matter experts who have earned the right to manage other technicians and projects. In order to ascend the corporate or small business ladder, it is essential that supervisors enhance their skill set by continuing to build interpersonal, communication, and leadership skills.
A Non-Profit Executive Director (ED) runs charities and non-profit organizations that provide value and services for the social good. EDs work with and report to a board of directors who are ultimately responsible for setting the overall vision and direction of the organization. The job of the ED is to execute the vision and accomplish the goals set by the board.
An Entrepreneurial Non-Profit ED is also focused on creating additional sources of revenue and opportunities through a variety of traditional and non-traditional methods. This type of social entrepreneurship is needed for today’s non-profits to stand out and find financial integrity beyond traditional funding, donations, and revenue sources.
Which Functions Should You Embrace?
Chances are you are a mixture of business owner, entrepreneur, manager, and subject matter expert or technician. I work with people who excel in all types business leadership functions, and together we decide the best path for them to achieve their unique vision. It is as fulfilling to me to help a purposeful business owner who wants more free time as it is to help an entrepreneur launch several successful businesses. I experience special satisfaction, though, when a business owner decides to move herself and her business to a much higher level of growth, prosperity, and business value. I respect that it takes a different kind of mindset, hard work, and determination to grow as an entrepreneurial leader, and I value the trust they put in me.