How Do You Know When You Are Being Ambitious, or is it Just Aggressive?

How Do You Know When You Are Being Ambitious, or is it Just Aggressive?

Part of any successful entrepreneur’s journey is the ability to be visionary, the ability to be a problem solver and forward thinker. The notion of being ambitious is a key aspect of creating success in one’s life and career.

So, how does one really know the fine line between a zealous individual whose words and actions are sought as ambitious versus an overbearing individual who can be labeled as aggressive?

Ambitious businesswoman

Timelines with Repercussions

One of the keys to being successful is creating due dates and timelines for creating projects. The ability to execute in a given time to a desired result is an integral part in creating traction in an entrepreneurial journey. However, when these timelines come with repercussions, it becomes much less the work of an ambitious person and much more in line with someone with aggressive tendencies. If an individual is getting caught up on the timeline more than the growth, learning and success this may be a sure sign of aggressive characteristics.

Most successful entrepreneurs are just as interested in the results and execution as they are in the growth of themselves and their team members. The ability to gain insight from various experiences on the journey is important. Also, communication among the team members around deliverables and the timeline is one of the most important aspects of building a team. No play is going to go exactly correctly and so the ability to communicate as a team will allow the team to modify the play or create an audible and pivot so that they can still create success around their execution.

Missing the Target

One key characteristic of an ambitious person is how they choose their targets – understanding the right outcome is integral to creating success. On the other hand, an aggressive individual will often have a hot topic of the day. Understanding what fire to put out for the day becomes the real challenge for these individuals’ team members. The ability to create a supportive, empowering, and collaborative workplace for the team members is the best way to achieve success and ultimately reach the outcomes that are desired. This will often require strategic thinking and a leader’s ability to work on the business instead of in the business.

There is a very gentle balance that is required between pushing a team towards achieving outcomes based on a vision for the growth of an organization, and showing up to the office on a daily basis with unreasonable expectations for what needs to be accomplished, and the desire to get a result today because something is not done and it pops up.

Aggressive boss
Ambitious or aggressive?

How does it Make You Feel?

There is a great quote that says “People do not remember what you said or how you said it, but rather how you left them feeling.” When an aggressive person speaks and asks for various tasks and items to be completed, the recipient often feels a sense of disempowerment, and inadequacy and often a feeling of being talked down to. Whereas, the ambitious and usually successful leader is able to communicate in a way that is not necessarily elegant or sophisticated, but rather authentic and empathetic to the other person and their needs in reaching the desired outcome. This ability to actively listen and engage in communication with others is an integral part of creating success for the team.

As an entrepreneur you are going to be faced with limited resources and lofty goals. There is nothing wrong with living an unreasonable life and surrounding yourself with others who it is expected the same. Rather, the key is the communication style and the ability to be collaborative and empowering to those around you that will ultimately determine your success and the success of the organization.

Michael S. Melfi JD, MBA

Michael S. Melfi, J.D., MBA, is an attorney with Bodman PLC who represents emerging companies and established businesses in a wide array of technology and corporate matters. He has extensive experience mentoring, counseling, and securing funding for entrepreneurs, inventors, startups, and small businesses and their disruptive technologies. His passion is guiding and supporting emerging companies and entrepreneurs and has authored four books aimed to help entrepreneurs gain a better understanding of often seemingly complex areas. Michael is a partner at Bodman PLC, one of the Midwest’s leading business law firms, that provides counsel to some of the region’s most successful companies and individuals on a broad range of issues.