In a recent article, Wendy E.F. Torrance (the director of entrepreneurship at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation) discusses the consequences of a business founder being self-critical. Torrance asserts a self-critical entrepreneur proves to be a stronger, more capable leader than his or her complacent counterpart would be running an identical company.
Yes, most skilled and experienced entrepreneurs preach that every founder needs confidence and constant belief in his or her business model. Just as important, Torrance argues, is the founder’s ability to submit himself or herself to self-criticism both in the private and public spheres. A company’s lifespan will suffer without a founder who is willing to point out both its obvious and less perceptible flaws. He or she needs to recognize what can be executed better and then begin to take steps toward improving these weaknesses. Just as entrepreneurs recognize the flaws in their companies, they need to examine their own unique deficiencies in a leadership positions.
Torrance doesn’t suggest that entrepreneurs lose confidence- just that they avoid stumbling into the perils of overconfidence, because overconfidence might lead to underestimating the strengths of competitors. Torrance warns against a business leader who assumes confidence when in reality he or she lacks the necessary knowledge or skill to build and manage the company properly. Founders that are constantly aware of personal or business flaws will not only strengthen their companies overall, but also protect it from their own egos. In order for business owners to use self-criticism to their advantage, Torrance recommends they understand their strengths and weaknesses, they recognize the skills and knowledge they lack, they acknowledge when they fail and they balance their confidence with constant self-criticism.
A sustainable business needs to constantly reevaluate the process by which it functions and fulfills client demands. A successful company, in Torrance’s eyes, appears to be one that constantly changes shape and evolves; yet, at its core, remains loyal to its initial and deeply rooted goals.