Do you like it hard or soft?


Yes I know, the title is a bit misleading! But its all fun and games as long as nobody gets hurt – right?

All jokes aside, you’ve heard the expression that many roads lead to Rome. Well, its the same in the world of business… There isn’t just one way to do things, there are many. What you have to debate with yourself is, which style suits you best and why. Actually the why is very important because you need a clear understanding of yourself before you can do anything right.

I want to discuss two distinct styles of business, which have both proven their value to me over the years. I’ve seen many examples and personally I’m leaning towards the soft approach but I’m more of a chameleon, depending on what is required of me in the moment. It’s a bit like being ambidextrous – you can do it but it takes a lot of training. But don’t let me leave you in the dark here if you haven’t guessed it! What I’m talking about is your entrepreneurial style:

If you choose the hard approach, you will need to be just that – hard. Depending on your character, it can come naturally to you or it can be very energy consuming (draining). If you are not a hard person by nature but feel the need to portray yourself that way to gain respect from peers and subordinates, you will need to have a good source of energy to keep it up. If you go against your own grain you may well be exhausting yourself for no good reason. The hard approach is more common because that’s what people generally expect and how they perceive successful entrepreneurs. You’ve heard someone say “oh yeah, he’s a good businessman, a real tough negotiator” or “sure, he gets things done, he’s a hard ass”. Hard people are generally loud and bossy and they will try to bully others into doing things their way. Since mankind is mostly made up of sheep (yes I’m not sugarcoating anything here), this method does work well in many cases. Personally I’m not a big fan of this approach for my own way of conducting business because in all honesty it will only get you so far, but I recognise the need for this type of leadership or approach and I employ it at times, whenever I can I do it by proxy through some who owns it or who is born to do things this way. In essence, if you need the sheep to be killed, send in a wolf.

If you choose the soft approach it’s a real paradox because you will be portraying yourself as a soft, diplomatic, easy going person who is nice and understanding all the time but you will have to make your mark in other ways for people to respect you. You will need to let actions speak louder than words and you need to make sure that your kindness is not mistaken for weakness. You should never loose your cool… Can you do that?

A wise old man once told me: if you want people to listen to what you have to say, you don’t have to shout at them, you need to whisper…

I like the soft approach because people will be less defensive, let their guard down and give you a chance to whisper sweet stories in their ear and if you whisper just right, they will do exactly what you want them to do and they will think its their idea – its just like magic.

One thing you must avoid at all cost is switching styles within your own organisation, because by doing so you will confuse people and remove their grip on what to expect. In any enterprise, you need to have constants and variables but leadership must never be a variable.

Here’s a little story that has nothing to do with this topic, but rather with entrepreneurship itself. Two shoemakers go to Africa. When they get there, one of them says “hey, they don’t wear any shoes here! I’m going home”. The other one answers “well, that’s exactly the point!”.


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