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5 Steps To Enhance Your Entrepreneurial Leadership Skills

Becoming a strong entrepreneurial leader is important for both leading a company and owning a company—here are five simple steps to embrace your leadership skills


Thu Jun 13 2024

Entrepreneurial leadership is about more than just setting up a business or managing a team. It’s about combining the best qualities of entrepreneurship and management to further your leadership skills or give you the confidence to successfully launch a startup.

Here are five key steps to enhance your entrepreneurial leadership skills: 

5 steps to enhance your entrepreneurial leadership skills

1. Develop self-awareness

A key part of being a strong leader is being aware of yourself and others—whether this is the skills you bring to the team or identifying gaps in your knowledge.

Aimee Kane is an associate professor of management at Duquesne University Palumbo-Donahue School of Business.  She teaches the Leadership and Motivation for Executives course in the new Master of Science in Entrepreneurial Leadership (MS-EL) program.  

“You need to understand the particular strengths that you bring to any kind of collaboration and the areas where teaming up with someone else will overcome your weaknesses,” she says.

Students will gain an improved understanding of their key strengths and weaknesses in Duquesne University's Center of Excellence in Entrepreneurship.

“One exercise students complete is a reflection on their leadership, based on the idea that a lot of what we know about ourselves is internal, but an important part is how we add value in the social world.”

In the Leadership and Motivation for Executives course, students go through a guided practice, reaching out to five people who know them well and asking them to reflect on a time when they made a difference and added value. Students then use these examples to consider what it looks like when they make a difference.  

“Listening and learning from others is important—to be able to lead change in an organization or found an organization, you need to be humble,” she adds.

2. Know when to delegate

It can often feel easier to get the job done yourself, rather than asking someone else. This is a common error that can tamper your true potential as an entrepreneurial leader. 

Celesté Marchbanks is a graduate of the Professional MBA and Graduate Certificate in Entrepreneurship programs at Duquesne University. They are also the director of business operations at professional services company Born to Lead. Celesté also teaches entrepreneurship at their alma mater. 

As part of their entrepreneurship courses, Celesté quickly learned the value of sharing responsibilities.

“I used to think that being an entrepreneur meant you have to do everything yourself—my weakness is that I have a ‘get it done’ attitude and think I’m the only one who can do it.”

Celesté explains that learning how to strategize effectively is an important part of entrepreneurial leadership.

With experience of co-founding a startup aimed at entrepreneurial athletes called Offszn Career Prep, Celesté experienced first-hand how to look at a complex problem and decide what task needs to be done first to get to the end goal.

“I learned how to not just rely on myself but rely on others.”

3. Embrace teamwork 

Another common misconception about entrepreneurship is that you work in silos. Yet teamwork can open new avenues when it comes to breeding innovation and creativity.

Aimee explains that collaboration is a defining feature of Duquesne University’s approach to entrepreneurship and the Master’s in Entrepreneurial Leadership program embeds teamwork throughout courses such as Ideation Adventure, Leading Strategic Change, Leadership and Motivation for Executives, and Technology Solutions for Entrepreneurs. 

4. Become comfortable with risk-taking 

With great risk comes great reward—while success isn’t always guaranteed for entrepreneurs, without being comfortable taking risks your leadership skills can only take you so far.

“The risk/reward trade-off is very strong,” says Aimee, adding that she encourages students to get involved with prototypes through new venture competitions, the new venture development fund, and resources for excellence and entrepreneurship.

The Duquesne Center for Excellence offers an ideation suite, a collaborative space, and cutting-edge rapid prototyping tools for creating physical products. Tools include laser cutters, engravers, 3D printers, textile prototyping tools, and more.

“These [initiatives] offer a safe, supportive space to start taking risks,” she says.

Celesté also teaches how to embrace risk taking at Duquesne University.

"Entrepreneurs have to understand the known risks and realize that there will always be an unknown risk element—we have to be able to analyze that without becoming paralyzed by the analysis,” Celesté advises

The Entrepreneurship Pitch Experience course in the Master’s in Entrepreneurial Leadership program invites students to create an actionable business plan in teams and then pitch the idea to a live panel of judges. The process offers a great opportunity for students to analyze the risks attached to starting a business.

5. Become a great networker 

Networking is important no matter which career you want to enter. Yet it’s a uniquely valuable skill for entrepreneurs. 

Celesté was able to benefit from the happy hours at the business school, which offer students the opportunity to engage with professors, peers, and successful alumni at networking events.

“If there was anything business networking related, I was there,” laughs Celesté.

This attitude clearly paid off since they landed a job at their current company through networking at one of these school events.

“I met someone who wanted to use our prototype [for Offszn Career Prep] and they ended up bringing me in as a marketing expert,” they say.

Since Duquesne University is based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania—a bustling tech hub with a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem—Celesté adds that this improved their experience even further. 

“People want to help you in this community—there’s a spirit of people wanting to push you forward, help you find opportunities, and connect with the right people,” concludes Celesté