"Startup Rising"The Middle East seems to the casual observer to always be in crisis, and even more so in recent months (and years) in places such as Egypt and Syria, with numerous other countries grappling with spillover effects or domestic crises all their own.

Despite this, Christopher M. Schroeder argues, the seeds of entrepreneurialism have already been planted, are already bearing fruit, and while nothing is certain, the energy, youth and technological advantages that mark the region’s entrepreneurs cannot be ignored.

I recently sat down with him in Washington, D.C., to discuss his book, “Startup Rising: The Entrepreneurial Revolution Remaking the Middle East,” and how this American tech executive and investor came to be so interested in the efforts of those half a world away. He also recently discussed his book on “Charlie Rose” — video here.

Schoeder’s background is in Internet companies of various types, whether running, advising or investing in them, and he also served in the State Department during the George H.W. (read more…)

More than ever, modern leaders of small businesses, large corporations and nonprofits must manage multiple departments and sustain working relationships within organizations more efficiently. Leading an engaging, technological and profitable business model requires constant challenge and improvement at all levels.

Most successful large and middle-market company CEOs prefer to be challenged. They actually seek out and pay well for harsh analytical truths. They know “yes people” are unhelpful and that success requires accelerated feedback, data measurement and execution. They also know that word of mouth customers today are actually speaking to thousands by the click.

Some owners and CEOs are unwilling to be challenged or to implement improvements “under the hood.” Some are fearful or insecure, in a complex conundrum or just plain stubborn. However, if your company plans to face today’s economy and the future, being open to challenge as a leader and as a business may be the difference between your organization prospering or fading away. (read more…)

We read a lot of articles to winnow down each business day’s SmartBrief on Leadership newsletter. That means hard choices, and sometimes intriguing, excellent content is left out.

Here is some of what I’ve been reading lately that might not seem directly applicable to most business leaders but may offer outside-the-box lessons. At the least, they’re good reads. Also, don’t forget to sign up for SmartBrief on Leadership.

“Inside America’s Great Romance With Norman Rockwell,” Smithsonian magazine, 10/2013: Looking at the personal life of Norman Rockwell and how unlikely it once seemed that he would be one of America’s most beloved artists. A great read for anyone tempted to make premature historical conclusions.

“Inside the fall of BlackBerry: How the smartphone inventor failed to adapt,” The (Toronto) Globe and Mail, 9/28: A lot to absorb in this long, long article, but here’s the thesis: “An investigation by The Globe and Mail, which included interviews with two dozen past and present company insiders, exposes a series of deep rifts at the executive and boardroom levels.”

“When and how to say goodbye to some of the original team,” Founder’s Mentality blog, 9/12: You’ve founded a company and it’s growing by leaps and bounds. (read more…)

Most of us know what it means to “go over your manager’s head.” That’s when you’re faced with a situation that you can’t seem to get resolved by working with your immediate boss. Or perhaps you’ve come up with an innovative idea that your boss won’t support. So, you decide to march up one rung in the management hierarchy and take up it up with your boss’s boss.

Yes, companies like to say that they have an “open door policy,” but in reality, going up the ladder is a risky move. No manager likes it when you go over their head, and they’ll probably hold a grudge for it. There’s also a good chance that when push comes to shove, your boss’ boss is going to side with your boss, not you. Worst case, you’ll leave both of them with the perception that you’re a whiner and trouble-maker. At a minimum, you’ll be seen as someone who doesn’t understand or respect organizational politics and protocol. (read more…)

The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council, an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and e-mail lessons. Read previous SmartBlogs posts by YEC.

1. Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is made up of five parts: self-awareness, self-regulation, social skills, empathy and motivation. According to Daniel Goleman in his article “What Makes A Leader” (Harvard Business Review 1998), emotional intelligence (EI) is what sets people apart. Individuals need a minimum amount of raw technical intelligence (IQ) to be leaders, but the most effective ones have high EI. — Danny Wong, Blank Label

2. The ability to concentrate

I find that the ability to obsessively concentrate on a problem until a breakthrough occurs is a valuable trait for a startup leader to have. (read more…)