If you speak to most successful entrepreneurs you will discover that failure has often played a central role in their success. Despite this, so many entrepreneurs today have allowed their mind sets to be completely dominated by a fear of failure that could, in truth, be the key to unleashing their potential and talent. It may sound obvious to some, but in the UK particularly there is an absolute fear of failing amongst leaders. This creates a barrier, not just to personal development as an entrepreneur but also to business leadership in general.
Innovation is important to most start up businesses today and many entrepreneurs talk about their desire to actively encourage disruption within their industry and market, yet very few can honestly say they have actually activated real innovation within their business. But why is this the case?
Zero risk means zero disruption
There are two thoughts that come into play here. The first is that people from corporate backgrounds are inherently risk averse; they’ve spent so much of their career developing strong internal processes to manage business that when it comes to going it alone and attempting to exercise creativity without boundaries, there is simply no chance that disruption will succeed.
The second is, that change is needed. Many leading strategic thinkers are moving beyond a focus on traditional product and service categories to seek out innovations in business processes, distribution, value chains, business models, and even the functions of management. But which school of thought is correct and will win at the end of the day?
If the former is true, then it suggests that those with vision that are open to taking on risk will encounter barriers along their road. If the latter, then company cultures need to also accept that failure will happen and that there needs to be a major change in the cultural psychology of business so that people aren’t afraid of it.
Entrepreneurs must stand for more that just a well-run business
Regardless of this, the real danger is that the trend which, has seen many people become disengaged with corporate life and therefore desire a new life within the entrepreneurial world will only lead to a greater increase in the fear of failure. Of course, entrepreneurs today can and will prosper but they should be led without fear and with conviction and self-belief, not by business processes. As an entrepreneur you need to be able to stand for more than a simply ‘well run business’ – you need to be able to demonstrate a fearless approach and engage your own people to be unafraid of failing.
Interestingly, it is becoming recognised that there is an increased fear of failure amongst the younger generation too. The baby boom generation were often more gung-ho in approach and achieved great things as a result. It was arguably a generation of superb leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs. There is far less freedom today and the young are known to feel under greater pressure at work. Mental illness and depression is on the increase as we know. It is logical that when one feels under such pressure that talent will not be creative or productive and they will choose to leave. The baby boom generation would have done exactly the same.
Be prepared to fail
How can we reduce this fear amongst future entrepreneurs? We need to place people back at the heart of leadership and to encourage them to express their skills as soon as their careers begin, these are our future entrepreneurs and innovators and they need to be accountable and to be prepared to succeed and also to fail. The vast majority of CEOs and chairman will accept that they have, at times, failed. It is completely normal, it happens to the best of us and the more we fear it the greater the barrier to success.
Some believe that the younger generation are not accountable but is that really true? Or do they just lack the confidence to take on risk because they fear the real possibility of failure? Perhaps the truth is, that the system they grew up with does not allow them to fail or achieve poor results?
Accept judgement and accountability
Making the decision to run your own business is arguably more difficult than it has ever been as everything is more transparent today and people are far more judgemental, perhaps this also exacerbates a fear of failing? Business needs young leaders and the economy needs young entrepreneurs breaking through, those who want to be accountable and are prepared to be judged. Business is competitive and it will put up a fight to anyone that wants to be different, create change and do best by all. Leadership and entrepreneurialism means accepting both success and failure; the good and the bad.
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