3 Essential Leadership Styles Every Business Needs

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Table of Contents

Every business needs these 3 key leadership styles: discover what they are, what they mean, why it matters, and which you are.

A wise mentor once told me there are three key leadership styles: the Entrepreneur, the Innovator and the Manager-Leader.

The most successful business owners understand this, and ensure they have representation of all three across their leadership team.

So what are the three roles?

The three leadership styles explained

#1. The Entrepreneur

The Entrepreneur is the deal-maker and risk-taker.

Typically a strong salesman, they are also really financially minded and understand what it takes to make a successful business work.

Entrepreneurs have the ability to look objectively at a business opportunity and assess if a deal (or business strategy) does or does not make sense.

They have less emotional ties to the “idea” of a business; and are happy to cut and run if the deal doesn’t stack up.

The challenges for the Entrepreneur is that their focus on the deal can sometimes lead to the finer details of delivery being over-looked or unattended.

Exclusive free bonus: to discover if you’re an Entrepreneur, Innovator or Manager-Leader, click here.

#2. The Innovator

Innovators are artists.

They love to create and design.  

Their primary focus is on understanding the problem and then creating a solution that satisfies and delights the customer.  

Tending to be more emotionally tied to the product than an Entrepreneur, the Innovator loves to take a customer problem and create a beautiful solution to solving it.

An Innovators challenge, is to not become so obsessed with satisfying the client that you over-engineer solutions; or, create something that can be too expensive to sell well, or scale.

#3. The Manager-Leader

Manager-Leaders are all about efficient delivery.

Typically the more risk-averse of the three, the Manager-Leader loves putting structures and processes in place to create efficiencies in the business.

Comfortable leading people, creating KPI’s and creating structures to get the most out of the team, Manager-Leaders are critical to creating scalability in your business.

Leadership harmony

Making successful business decisions is all about balancing perspectives to get the best outcomes.

Each of the different leadership styles brings different viewpoints to the table that contribute to sound decision making.

Imagine you are considering a new product or service to complement your existing offering.

You can see how together, the three leadership styles complement one another and provide a rounded and balanced assessment.

Why these three leadership styles are important for scaling your business

As you start to scale your business, having all three leadership styles at the table becomes more important that ever.

Most business founders fall into the Innovator or Entrepreneur character types.

An Innovator sees a problem they want to solve; and so starts a business.

An Entrepreneur sees a financial opportunity; and so starts a business.

And these two leadership styles are exactly what is required during Seed and Start-up phase, whilst you are testing your idea and getting things going.

However, once you start to scale, or prepare to scale, that Manager-Leader skillset, which understands how to create business efficiencies and deliver at scale, becomes critical.

Scaling vs. Growing

At this point it’s important to be clear on what “Scaling” actually means, as being distinct from “growing” a business.

Whilst growth can be linear, meaning that revenue grows at the same rate as expenses do, “scaling” occurs when the revenue grows, but expenses proportionally decrease.

To enable this to happen, operational efficiencies are required.

And this is a manager-leaders bread and butter.

To give you an example, a little over 12-months ago, my business partners and I sold our business.

The biggest leap we ever took in that business was when we hired a Manager-Leader as our CEO.

It wasn’t until a mentor explained the concept of the three leadership styles, Entrepreneur, Innovator and Manager-Leader, that we realised we were all Innovators or Entrepreneurs, and what we lacked was a true Manager-Leader.

It was a major turning point for the business, and without understanding this concept I don’t think we ever would have achieved the growth or the eventual exit that we did.

Which are you?

Each of us falls into one of these character types.

If you are honest with yourself, I am sure you will associate with one of the character types. Consider what you enjoy doing right now and what you really want to be doing in future.

However, if you are a solo-founder, chances are you have been acting as all three until now.

Even as a co-founder, you may have to fill more than one role.

My original co-founder and I were both Innovators (I love solving customer issues).  However, despite having a tech background, I took on the Sales Leader role and in that sense had to step into the Entrepreneur role.

How do you fill vacant character types?

Existing Team

Look around at your immediate team and see who you have that could fill a missing leadership styles.

Is there someone in your team that is incredibly process driven?  Or who is an incredible innovator?  Or who you sense can help assess deals and opportunities?

If so, consider bringing them into the fold on big-decisions.


If you are in the process of hiring or thinking of hiring in the near future, consider if your new team member can fill the missing role for you?

Perhaps make it part of your recruitment assessment criteria.

Get a Mentor/Coach

Perhaps the quickest way to tap into the complementary leadership styles is to engage someone external to help with those roles.

Getting a mentor or coach is a great way to do this quickly and with minimal commitment.

And services like MentorConnex make it super easy and more accessible than ever before.

Wrapping Up

Each of us falls naturally into either an Entrepreneur, Innovator or Manager-Leader leadership styles.

The best businesses have a balance of all three in their leadership team and factor in each of the different perspectives they bring to the table for making major decisions and deciding how to take the business forward.

Figure out which one of the three you and your leadership team fill and if there is an imbalance, consider how to address it.

By doing so, you are giving yourself and your company, the best opportunity for successfully scaling and reaching your goals.

Now Take The test
Discover your leadership style with our free, 5 question quiz (answers displayed immediately).

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Entrepreneur, Innovator, Manager-Leader.

Which do you think you are?

(Pssst... you're probably wrong!)