Businesses succeed or fail due to how they are led, right? Not in my experience. I would like to suggest that business success or failure can be far more determined by “from where” a business is led than by how.
Let me explain. Effective entrepreneurial leadership requires that we spend a certain amount of our time in and between what I am going to call leadership “zones”.
The EnQ 3 zone leadership model has been designed to guide business owners through an effective path of entrepreneurial leadership. The model consists of 3 zones and 3 contributors or influencers to effective leadership.
The 3 zones are:
- The Front Zone,
- The Middle Zone
- The Back Zone
The 3 contributors are:
- (Your) Headspace
- (Your) Positioning - as a leader, and
- (The businesses) Results
The Front Zone
Entrepreneurial leadership requires that we start our business from the front zone. This is a very exciting space and requires a motivated, inspiring and encouraging leader. Picture a warrior rearing his horse onto its hind legs, sword in hand - pointing in a specific direction and shouting to his followers, “we go that way - FOLLOW ME”! In this zone the leader provides all the direction from the front of the business and all activity is directed towards conquering new territory. In entrepreneurial building this zone is where the planning takes place, the finances are arranged and powerful contacts are sought. The business owner will also move through the “why am I doing this?” and the “what exactly am I going to do?” phases whilst in this zone.
The front zone contributors guide us as follows:
- Front Zone Headspace: Whilst we are in the front zone we are forwards focused. There is little time to worry about what is happening around us as we identify and closely inspect the opportunities that we think we should get to before anyone else does.
- Front Zone (leadership) Positioning: We are positioned as an inspirational leader in this early phase. Our ability to inspire others to follow us in this zone will result largely from our ability to communicate our vision with a clarity, passion and certainty that will excite others sufficiently to follow us. Although exciting, this is not necessarily an easy phase as our followers might also be aware that we might not have an entirely firm grip on the battleground upon which we are about to launch ourselves, whilst expecting them to be in hot pursuit.
- Front Zone Results: In the front zone our results are measured by our conquests, i.e. the contacts we make, the gaps we accurately identify, the clients we win over and the contracts we sign.
The Middle Zone
After a certain amount of conquering we come to realise that we need other people to assist us to build our company from a fresh “wing it” start up to a more secure organisation that can process and deliver on the services or products we have innovated, independently of our personal efforts. Many of us will recognise the start of the “I am not sure that I can afford to bring someone else on board but I won’t grow if I don’t “ phase. It is at this point that we need to move ourselves backwards from the front zone and into the middle leadership zone.
The middle zone contributors guide us as follows:
- Middle Zone Headpace: Our headspace in this zone will become quickly crowded by the needs, opinions, demands, contributions and personalities of others. This zone is all about transferal as we sort through how best to leverage our strengths and fill our gaps through chosen stakeholders and systems. This zone has our attention focused inwardly, upon the inner working of our organisation and we lose sight of most horizons for some time whilst in this zone.
- Middle Zone (leadership) positioning: The middle zone requires us to be “directive” leaders by communicating to others what it is that they need to achieve and strive for. They need more from us than just in which direction we are heading in the long term. In the middle zone they need to know exactly what they need to do right now, and they might need to know how they are expected to do it.
- Middle Zone Results: In this zone “survival” might well describe a good result for us as we take on additional costs for growth for which we might have no immediate or short-term guarantee of return. I have also found in my own experiences that we often have to move through the wrong people to get to the right people and thus this zone can take not just a lot of energy but quite some time. Patience and persistence are key to negotiating our way through this zone effectively. We must not get stuck in this zone though as it is here that we are the least effective in our leadership, simply due to our positioning and our reduced capacity to focus on much more than what is immediately in front of us.
The Back Zone
Sooner, rather than later, we need to move backward once again, get ourselves out of the way of those we have directed towards their roles and our agreed outcomes and reverse ourselves into the back zone. I had a friend once who would always say “when leaving a room, walk slowly backwards and keep smiling. Everyone will think you are coming in”. This is particularly good advice for business owners who need to make a slow but definite exit on the day to day operations without panicking anyone or creating undue separation anxiety.
The back zone is all about expanding our awareness of what is working in our business and maintaining our relevance to our clients. Sadly it’s the most crucial yet the least populated zone in SME’s.
The back zone contributors guide us as follows:
- Back Zone Headspace: In this zone our headspace is clear as we are able to monitor not only the business activities in front of us but can keep a good eye on the horizon and scan for either enemies, opportunities or both.
- The back zone (leadership) positioning: In this zone we need to be empowering leaders. That means that we give our stakeholders all that they need to achieve their goals and then we stay out of their way whilst encouraging them to add every bit of brilliance that they can to the business mix. Also, we need to keep them accountable for their actions and results and this can only be realistically achieved when we have completely empowered them.
- The back zone results: Only once we have moved into the back zone can we really start to realise sustainable profitable results. Whilst some fortunate enterprises might enjoy profits from their early beginnings, in the case of most, it takes some years of business development to build the sustainable kind. Profits are also far more likely to endure when a business stays relevant. Relevance to our market is far easier to achieve when we are positioned in the back zone with heightened focus and awareness, than if we stay out on the conquering front zone or become overwhelmed and distracted in the middle zone.
As the graphic clearly shows, our effectiveness as a leader is at its lowest in the middle zone and whilst we must move through that zone, the important thing is to keep moving. Once we have moved into the back zone in our first business it is possible to move back into the front zone from time to time to launch new divisions, businesses or products but we should only have to move through the middle zone once in every business structure - unless we have to completely rebuild its infrastructure at any point.
So the obvious question is - in which zone are you currently operating?
Whilst the EnQ 3 zone leadership model provides a clear path towards effective entrepreneurial leadership, many of us do get stuck in a zone for too long, for various reasons, to the detriment of our business growth.