Theory E²: Working with Entrepreneurs in Closely-Held Enterprises–V. The Assertive Entrepreneur
Appropriate Uses of Strengths
The assertive entrepreneur is a courageous entrepreneur. If a real or potential enemy is present, the assertive entrepreneur is even more likely to be successful in recruiting support for an action-oriented, high-risk venture. The assertive entrepreneur is valued for his decisiveness. The assertive entrepreneur often stands out in stark contrast to the quest for uniformity and conformity among some managers. The successful assertive entrepreneur is likely to encourage entrepreneurial norms throughout the enterprise and does not retain sole rights to this assertive, risk-taking stance.
The assertive entrepreneur is particularly effective in the startup phase of a closely-held enterprise. His job at the beginning is one of “directing, protecting, orienting, resolving conflicts, and establishing norms … He may appear larger than life because he is indeed doing so much. At the source of the organization’s energy, he infuses people’s work with meaning. As the founding father, he is likely to be invested with charisma by those around him.”
The assertive entrepreneur moves ideas into action, building on the distinctive advantages held by the closely-held enterprise in which he works. As an entrepreneur, the assertive entrepreneur takes risks that hold the potential of rich benefit and learns from the mistakes that inevitably occur when taking risks. In their encouragement of entrepreneurship, assertive entrepreneurs exhibit the skill of enablement. They encourage others to take risks and learn from their mistakes. They also help to champion the ideas that are offered by other people and help to defend and protect younger and more vulnerable members of the organization, so that the organization can fully benefit from new and often refreshing perspectives.
To be successful in his entrepreneurial role, the assertive entrepreneur must hold the trust of members whom he is leading. Furthermore, the assertive entrepreneur must meet three different criteria with regard to trust. First, members of the group must trust the competencies of the assertive entrepreneur. They must believe that this person knows what he is doing. As Heifetz has noted, members of enterprise have every right to expect that people who command authority in their organization possess strong problem-solving skills.