“Could you do a 2 hour leadership workshop for our young entrepreneurs?” a client asked.

“Off course”, was my reaction, “I love the spirit of start ups & entrepreneurs and would be more than happy to challenge them on their leadership.”

“Great. And remember, it should be very hands on, not too theoretical. Entrepreneurs don’t like to waste their time, you know, they are fast paced and pretty stubborn.”

“Sure thing,” I agreed and sighed.

I agreed because I love the vibrant world of start ups. Having severed  the chains of a corporate career myself at age 45 and I work in an entrepreneurial business school. I sighed, because I worked in corporate life until I was 45 and I work in a business school. So I can’t and will never be one of “them” and it feels as if I need to be like ‘them’ to be able to score.

One month later, I’m still struggling with the workshop. I’ve spent far too much time preparing it. This evening I have to deliver and I’m still not sure what to do.

“What is with entrepreneurs?” I wonder. “’Why do they perceive the world as consisting of those who are entrepreneur and those who are not? How come they seem to have such a competitive mindset: “you win or you lose. Failing is good. Only the strong survive…” How come they are so opiniated and only seem to value action and hard work and play?”

But more importantly, how can I, with my academic thinking and corporate background add value for these young entrepreneurs. I want to, because as society and economy struggle with global competition and digital transformation, they are in need of creativity and entrepreneurship.

“You know, most of the entrepreneurs I know are so focused on their products or investments, that they don’t like to pay attention to human issues. It distracts them… until they lose a client, a key employee, a personal friend…,” said Sarah Cherif to me on the phone yesterday, when I shared with her my “teaching block”. She’s an entrepreneur in the people business.

I was frustrated that she was able to frame the issue so clearly. I was also grateful for the insight and will approach the workshkop from that angle this evening. Entrepreneurs don’t like people. Success is what matters and employees need to contribute as smoothly as possible. Leadership puts people first: trust and collaboration is what matter the most.

I know, I know. Too black and white. But hey, isn’t that what entrepreneurs like?

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