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If you’re anything like I was back when I was a first-time
entrepreneur, you’re probably worried about being a good leader. But the
way most people address this fear is exactly wrong.
The author of this post, Chris Yeh,
has been building internet businesses since 1995 and currently serves
as the VP of Marketing for PBworks, as well as a General Partner at
Back when I started my first company, I was a 24-year-old wunderkind.
I could rattle off my accomplishments - graduating at 19, seeing my work
praised in the press, feeling like a big man on campus at Harvard
What I didn’t like to talk about, but realized, was
that I had never run a company. Oh sure, I had been a manager and led
small teams, but I’d never had P&L, hiring-and-firing
responsibility. And now I was trying to lead a company full of people
with similar qualifications and way more experience.
I’m pretty sure
some of my VPs had been running business units bigger than my entire
company … before I was born.
In response, I focused on making sure I was doing everything I could
to be a good leader. I did things like dress more formally to set a good
example, and I’d work on my speeches and pep talks. In other words, my
focus was completely, entirely wrong.
What you need to understand (and hopefully learn at an earlier age
than I did) is that leadership isn’t about you; it’s about them. Employees don’t measure startup leaders based on how they look and
how good they are at making speeches (we’ll save that for less important
things like selecting the President of the United States).
want leaders who make good decisions, help them accomplish their goals,
and care about them - in that order. Notice how fashion sense and
oratorical skills didn’t make the list.
If you can’t make the company successful, advance their career, and
make them feel wanted, employees won’t care that you have CEO hair and
give great speeches at conferences. In fact, those things will make them
dislike you even more.
Conversely, if you make their equity valuable, make their CV more
employable, and show genuine caring, you could look like Quasimodo and
communicate in grunts, and you’d still be beloved.
To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, employees don’t ask what they can do
for their leaders; employees ask what their leaders can do for them. But
if you move the needle for your employees, they will want to move the
needle for you.
An Unreasonable Challenge:
The next time you’re concerned about being a good leader, don’t worry
about whether your people think you look or sound like a good leader.
Just worry about whether they believe that you act like one.
Chris Yeh has been building Internet businesses since 1995. He is the VP
Marketing for PBworks, which provides highly vertical collaboration
solutions that help businesses work more efficiently and effectively ...