DO’s and DONT’S: What you can learn now from visionary entrepreneurs

Illustrations Susanne Gold – Text Jörg Puma

We never had so many perfect excuses: Sales down because of lower demand. Profit down because of external supply problems. Europe ordered too few vaccines. All true. But in the end it’s the result that counts. And successful careers usually begin in a crisis. Now is the right time to proactively start the transformation. And be among the winners in three years.

But how does that work? There are proven recipes for success. From visionary entrepreneurs with outstanding results. From them you can easily learn how to apply successful leadership during times of great uncertainty.

“Open eyes for the problems of the world, learning in a network, creativity and openness to new things, curiosity, intuition and the strength to persevere during tough times.”

“The basis of every visionary leader is enthusiasm”

These tips help in every leadership function: the CEO of a start-up as well as the board of a global or regional corporation, the head of a public institution, the leader of an NGO as a family entrepreneur, but also the “family manager” (father, mother or diverse).

It is the inner drive, the reason why a team can outgrow itself. Enthusiasm is transferred to the team and the partners and brings out the best in everyone involved. The team members realise that they are working on a project that is important for society and find solutions even for problems that were previously considered insurmountable. This does not only concern the core functions of the product or service – all functions want to actively contribute to the success.

“Can’t do, won’t do”

The founder of the Bavarian company KRONES, Herrmann Kronseder, explained the principles of his success to me in a long conversation. One of his key factors: the entire management team thinks and acts for the entire company and not just with regard to its own function. Only managers who can make quick decisions in the interest of the company as a whole are given responsibility. This has led to unrivalled efficiency and customer satisfaction. It is not without reason that the KRONES slogan is “there’s no such thing as can’t be done”.

“Inspiring the team and adapting previous solutions to the new problem”

BioNTech founders Özlem Türeci and Ugur Sahin were excited about solving a new social problem: they developed a method that would enable the human body to defeat cancer cells with its own immune defence system. Then came the pandemic. The decisive step? Getting the team excited and adapting their solutions to the new problem.

Crises often change entire industries and their success factors. Based on their messenger RNA method, they develop a vaccine against the new Sars-CoV-2 virus. A spurt that gives the CFO grey hair: For the small start-up of the two professors, bioreactors, production facilities and raw materials had to be procured within three quarters of a year. Expenditures of over 600 million euros for a company that has never been profitable.

DON’T: “Large corporations often replace enthusiasm with career options and a multitude of rules”

At BioNTech, the immense volume of investment was compounded by the tenfold increase in the size of the team within a few months, working through the weekends in a spurt of enthusiasm. A contrasting insight from my experience in established companies: when integrating newly acquired start-ups, one of the main problems was working hours. The actual motto in a start-up is: You work as long as you enjoy it. In order to solve tricky tasks, people are also happy to work on weekends.

In big companies it’s often different: there are process manuals and an occupational safety department. They know that you are not allowed to work more than eight hours on average and that you are not allowed to drive a car after ten hours of work from a customer appointment. The visionary entrepreneur and his highly motivated team, freshly bought into the large corporation, asked me in view of the unprecedented restriction of their work by industrial safety regulations: How are we supposed to be able to work?

DON’T: “Not resting on past successes.”

“We know what’s right because that’s how we got big and successful!” The problem with this attitude is often realised later by the managers of a market leader who are spoilt for success: Nokia’s managers turned down a joint venture with Apple to jointly develop a smart phone. Three years later, the long-time market leader became a restructuring case.

“A growth mindset is more successful than a fixed mindset.”

Visionary enthusiasm to always develop the best solution leads to ongoing adaptation to new trends. What psychology professor Carol Dweck found out at Stanford University applies to students as well as entrepreneurs: only those who recognise mistakes as opportunities will grow. Those who think they always have to be successful and only fall back on permanent characteristics to explain success limit their abilities and lose the motivation to become better. Growth mindset means the freedom to be even better tomorrow than today and also to laugh about previous mistakes.

Fixed Mindset is the main reason for the decline of formerly successful companies. The leader should not limit the team’s enthusiasm by unnecessary fear of change. New trends require new ideas. And courage.


Growth Mindset

“The question of the successful is always WHY NOT?” at the beginning


In contrast, “Yes, but” companies are organisations where the round of risk-averse key department heads talk up every new idea because no more mistakes can be made. Thus the argument. Fixed Mindset has an error-avoidance culture. This means that the organisation is almost “dead”, even if bankruptcy or a sale may come years later after important new trends have been missed.

This can be well illustrated by the example of Elon Musk: Daimler, in order to avoid mistakes, sold its Tesla shares after a rational analysis of the risks of the project: no e-filling stations, expensive batteries – all too risky. Unanimously confirmed by the concentrated judgement of the financial analysts. Today, this block of shares would be worth about as much as Daimler AG as a whole. The gut feeling of the entrepreneur Elon Musk, who already gave us the simple internet payment through PayPal instead of the complicated IBAN, seems to be right. The numerous BMW managers who secretly drive a Tesla have long felt it: driving pleasure has been redefined in the Tesla.

Enthusiasm is here again the successful basis for being there with the right instinct. But with both hemispheres of the brain, because creative intuition, which is located on the right, definitely needs the left-hemispheric fact-based ratio in order to be financially successful.

“Visionary entrepreneurs ask themselves about the problems of humanity.”

While entrepreneurs are interested in increasing profits, visionary leader Elon Musk always asks himself, “What are the most important problems facing humanity?” Enthusiasm awakens intrinsic motivation. Enthusiasm empowers employees. Not only when leading decentralised teams in home offices far away from the boss. When applying these principles, they achieve better results and the team is empowered to go beyond itself. For the benefit of the company and their own self-development. More on the generally applicable leadership principles of visionary entrepreneurs can be found in my following article here in the Utopiensammlerin

Detailed information in the standard work on corporate transformation. Who wants to start for a transformation right away: Here you can find the homepage of the Transformation Institute with a free eBook. 


One comment on “DO’s and DONT’S: What you can learn now from visionary entrepreneurs”
  1. YES!!! This is it: Why not 😉

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