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Berkonomics

Can you be liked while being tough?

People argue over whether an entrepreneur with a sense of fairness, a desire for collegiality, a want to share the profits can succeed in the long run within a business world full of lions and tigers that eat timid entrepreneurs for lunch.

Does a “good heart” diminish the chances of success?

First, let’s separate the “good heart” from the issue of whether an entrepreneur is driven to succeed.  A sense of values that allows for sharing and fairness is not at odds with a ‘type A’ entrepreneur driven for success.

What is important is that stakeholders (people working for and with the entrepreneur) accept the entrepreneur for his or her good intentions, sense of fairness and willingness to listen.

Stories of the selfish entrepreneur

I have had numerous experiences during my business career where businesspeople I dealt with took advantage of the moment selfishly because they could, not because they should.  I recall an executive who kept a large deposit but canceled a contract, refusing to negotiate, because the next payment due was a few days late.  Or another who sued over a gray area issue, refusing to listen or negotiate.  (He lost the suit and paid both sides’ fees.)

My unscientific conclusion

Surely the ruthless more often win in the short run.  But early successes, built upon the broken backs of adversaries, are rarely followed by long- term wins for the tyrant or for the tyrant’s company.

Be of good heart.  You will enjoy your entrepreneurial or managerial ride much more, and your stakeholders will follow you through the flames as well as cheer your successes.

Images created with MS Designer using prompt: A realistic photo image of a casually dressed female businessperson standing as her direct reports applaud her recent action. White background, No text.

  • Lewis Stanton

    Dave,
    You are right, as per usual. I would distinguish between internal vs external behavior, but not much. Core values are not only for internal relationships. BTW, building resonance with and between team members is well-researched and a proven successful approach. See Primal Leadership, for example.

  • Phil Bromiley

    There is also some evidence that employees work harder for bosses that the employee can count on keeping his or her word. Simply doing what you say you will do generally improves performance.

  • Oli Thordarson

    That is some sage experience you shared today. Thanks Dave.

    Sincere regards,

    Oli

  • William FIsher

    This is especially true in technical businesses like mine. Programmers are really smart people. They’ll see through any dissembling or evasiveness right away. If things don’t make perfect logical sense, they can sense a rat from a mile away. Leading them requires gaining and maintaining their trust by actually being honest and trustworthy. When that’s lost, the best people leave.

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