Theory E²: Working with Entrepreneurs in Closely-Held Enterprises–V. The Assertive Entrepreneur
Second, effective assertive entrepreneurs must be trusted for their intentions. Members of the closely-held enterprise will follow assertive entrepreneurs only if they believe that these executives truly care about the welfare of those who work for them as well as the welfare of the overall organization. Third, assertive entrepreneurs are effective if those who follow them trust their perspectives and values. Heifetz suggests that predictable values must be present if authority is to be effective. Members of an organization must know, share and rely on the perspectives and values held by their entrepreneurs. If an assertive entrepreneur seems to be quite different from his subordinates, they are less inclined to trust him and are also less inclined to accept either his authority or direction.
If these three forms of trust don’t exist, then an assertive entrepreneur must fall back on coercion or manipulation in order to be effective. Assertive entrepreneurs without the trust of their followers often create work environments that are filled with intimidation, close monitoring, indirect communication, and covert threat. When these conditions exist, trust in the competencies, intentions and perspectives of the executive further drops off, leading to an even greater need for coercion and manipulation. A vicious cycle begins, usually leading to the demise of either the assertive entrepreneur or the closely-held enterprise (if the entrepreneur is very powerful).
Inappropriate Use of Strengths
The assertive entrepreneur is most often criticized for lack of purpose or impulsiveness. In an effort to move the closely-held enterprise from contemplation and deliberation to action, the assertive entrepreneur often takes action for action’s sake, failing to take into account a long-term vision or purpose for the organization. Assertive entrepreneurs, as a result, will often seem to be wandering around without clear direction. They tend to sacrifice the core values of the closely-held enterprise in an attempt to achieve their short-term goals and objectives. Assertive entrepreneurs will sometimes mistake the means for the ends, spending insufficient time building broad-based support for a specific set of end points.
The tendency for assertive entrepreneurs to act impulsively comes from their eagerness to move forward without adequate attention to the current state in which they and their organization find themselves. The assertive entrepreneur is to be admired for charging out of the organizational foxhole and exhibiting considerable courage in exposing himself to the enemy’s fire. However, the assertive entrepreneur is likely to leap out of the foxhole without knowing why he is at war or without checking to see if he has brought enough ammunition to defeat the enemy. We can admire the fallen hero, but would prefer he remain alive to continue fighting on behalf of our closely-held enterprise.