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BW Businessworld

Skill Up Stage-wise

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Starting a new business is always difficult. Coming with a new idea, building the product, putting together the team, getting the first customer, creating a sustainable business and scaling it up require several skills. Over and above, the leadership of the entrepreneur or the founders is the most important factor in creating a successful enterprise, according to Derek Lidow. The leadership capabilities required at each stage are different. Learning from the experiences of others is one of the ways to avoid any mistakes. Leadership can be learned. Some people are natural leaders, but most develop the skills when pushed into leadership positions or when it is necessary to take on new responsibilities. Starting an enterprise is one such occasion when the founder must develop leadership skills and provide leadership to the entire team. Along with the idea for the enterprise, the entrepreneur has to introspect and create a leadership model for herself that will apply to the enterprise.

Lidow, through this book, takes us through the various stages of building an enterprise and how founders can adopt skills required at each stage: (1) From idea to real customer; (2) from real customer to functioning enterprise; (3) from functionality to effectiveness and; (4) from effectiveness to self-sustainability. It is important to see the startup journey through these stages as these milestones are similar to how a venture fund would view the stages of a startup enterprise. Going from one stage to the next is a great achievement and one that should be celebrated. A reader can read the book just in time when the skills are needed — just before you enter the next stage.

From this foundation, the book then goes on to describe the leadership skills required in detail. The chapters following address issues such as building relationship, motivating others, leading change and creating a personal leadership strategy. Each chapter has several examples of why these skills are important, where and at which stage these skills are essential and how other leaders have developed these skills. In the chapter on creating a personal leadership strategy, Lidow explains on how to create an inventory of personal traits, how to assess skills and how to develop the leadership strategy so that you can achieve your goals. Listing out the skills, assessing them and developing them ensure that it is possible to develop the necessary leadership skills and will help an entrepreneur to succeed in building the enterprise.
The second part of the book focuses on how to apply the skills in real life situations and avoid common mistakes that cause entrepreneurs to fail. There are some notes at the end which explain either a concept, a case or a term that is used in the book. Though limited, these help to clarify the text and the intent of the author. Learning from others experience makes the book more practical and one can relate to the situations better.

Gopalakrishnan is Co-founder, Infosys

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 09-03-2015)

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