Founders and Leaders

Entrepreneurs come in different flavors, different sizes, different languages, and different abilities. Some entrepreneurs are brilliant engineers, some are opportunists, some are really good at sales and marketing. One thing is for sure though – not all entrepreneurs are leaders.

There are countless books on leadership. I’ve read a few, from Jack Welch to Rudy Guiliani, to Seth Godin. In this entrepreneurial age we’re living in, leadership has taken on a new meaning. Leadership is a bit more scientific too, than say entrepreneurship. Yet leadership can also be as enigmatic as entrepreneurship.

I’ve been thinking about these things lately, thinking about the essence of leadership in an entrepreneurial setting.

Fred Wilson, on his blog, said the following the other day:

I’ve heard people say, “If you want to know about a company, all you need to do is look at the leader” and it certainly is true that companies exhibit the traits of their leaders. But it’s also true that companies exhibit the traits of their founders. In fact, I’d argue that founders leave a longer and more indelible imprint on the DNA of companies than the person who is currently running them.

There are a host of reasons for why that is. To start, the business that the company is in is more often than not determined by the founder. And companies can move into different businesses over time, but most stay fairly rooted in the initial business that they started in. It’s also true that the culture of a company is defined early on and it’s hard to change it. Some companies are technology driven, some are product driven, others are marketing driven, and others are sales driven. That most often comes from the founder and it’s hard for a new leader to change that mindset. Another important reason that the founders often have the greatest impact on the DNA of a company is the entire initial management team is most often built by the founder. That initial selection of people is a critical determinant in the way companies evolve and behave and new management will always struggle to change the behaviors a company exhibits.

Founders are entrepreneurs, whether they like it or not. That’s just inherent in founding a company. It’s like giving birth to a child, you are a mother. However, just because you’re a founder, or just because you’re an entrepreneur, doesn’t mean you’re a leader.

I recently read Tribal Leadership, by various others, and Tribes, by Seth Godin. I’m trying to better understand my own style of leadership, the qualities and the characteristics of it. I’m trying to be a better leader, and know where my weaknesses as a leader may lie in order to do so.

What I enjoy most about doing what I do every day here at CitySquares is not closing deals, analyzing Excel workbooks, or conducting board meetings. I don’t particularly enjoy any of those duties and tasks, or many of the countless other responsibilities that come with being the CEO. And none of those things actually make me a leader. What I do enjoy doing is working with the people within CitySquares, as well as the customers and the advisors. I enjoy affecting change, helping the company move forward as a single unit, as a tribe, who actually enjoy their jobs. I enjoy protecting them from the noise outside these walls, and from those who may try to stop them from succeeding. I enjoy achieving our goals, collectively. I enjoy inspiring. I enjoy seeing them smile at our holiday party, as if they’re actually happy to be there because they like the company, they like who they work for, they like who they work with. I enjoy working with my team to find new ways of accomplishing the greater mission of CitySquares. I enjoy inspiring and affecting change then watching them execute, and learn, and get even better at it.

Is this leadership? I don’t know. It’s me, I know that. It’s who I am and it’s what I do best, I think.