As part of developing yourself as a startup leader, you want to explore some of the “land mines” that are hidden in the landscape of business leadership. It is very useful for a startup founders to watch for what robs them of power. Understanding the dynamic of what NOT to do is just as critical as knowing what TO do. I say it is more powerful to discover what something IS NOT as well as what IS.
The point of this conversation is to introduce you to the some of the most critical and dangerous “minefields” that lie ahead so that you will be able to navigate your way effectively. The harsh (the reality) of leadership is that followers sometimes enjoy seeing a leader go down in flames. It keeps them in their comfort zone, hiding as a spectator, watching – you.
What rob a leader of her/his power?
· Being a legend in your own mind. Ego, the mighty killer of effective leadership. Ego to leadership is like gas to a fire. Remember – there is a distinct difference between arrogance and confidence!
· Believing in your own assumptions. The source of all screw ups. Maybe, just perhaps, other people have different (and valid) interpretations. Leadership lives in the community, out in the world, not in a vacuum. If for some mysterious reason, your assumptions are wrong, change your mind!
· Driving an “Agenda”. It is not about what you want; it is what is needed. Your “plan,” as glorious it might seem to you at the time, may not always be the best one. Leadership is designed to serve a purpose that is bigger than just you. Do what is right, and not just the right thing!
· Being defensive and upset. If you are on defense, who’s on offense? Defense is the way to lose the battle. It temporarily assigns the circumstances to be the guardians of your power. So you are upset. Who cares? Compose yourself, the world is watching!
· Lack of Integrity. You do not do what you say, they do not do what they say, no one does what they say. Integrity to leadership is like water to the fish. Honoring your word is all that you’ve got. You can’t hold anyone to their integrity if you do not hold to yours!
· Putting trust first. Putting too much emphasis on trust can get you in trouble. You want to consider that trust takes the time to build, and you may not have it (time, that is). Focus on workability and integrity, not trust. Trust is overrated. You can be effective without it!
· Speaking no possibility. The people that “vote” for you want to be a part of an exciting future, or as I say, to be enrolled into that which is possible. They want you to tell them that everything will be all right, and if you lose sight of the future, what do you think happens to them? People have their own doubts; they do not need yours!
· Being serious and significant. Leadership is serious business, but no one said that you have to be significant about it. We are living in a serious world. It doesn’t mean that you need to be a comedian, but a bit of lightness never hurt anyone, and it can ease the pain!
· Lack of communication. In the absence of communication, people’s minds go places you do not want to know about. They need to know – otherwise, they will make things up as they go. It is much easier to face reality than to clean up the mess of the alternative!
· Pushing too far. You can push as far as the safety net will allow you to. Fear can be a great motivator, but it cuts both ways. You can get extraordinary results – or paralyze a business. You need to provide a safe environment for people to take risks. They will do something because they can see it, not because you say so!
If you make mistakes as a leader (and trust me, you will), make sure you make “worthy” ones. Do not sweat the small stuff. It is a waste of a life. Make the kind of mistakes that will be impossible to hide or sweep under the rug. That way, you will have to deal with what it takes to tackle it head on, publicly, taking the world on, with no fear, as if your life is depending on it (because it really is).
Don’t commit “petty crimes.” If you are going to go down or be judged on your leadership sins, at least be judged for something worthy of your life, for what you stand for and are willing to die for, in glorious flames that will not be forgotten for generations to come!