Monday, June 02, 2003

Leadership for the Entrepreneur

The Inc! article on Leadership is very interesting. It is especially geared towards understanding the concept of Leadership style for the entrepreneur, and this questioning itself is novel beacuse you have leadership styles for various leaders and companies like what Ken Blanchard says.

And now the author Michael S. Hopkins concentrates on what is called "charismatic" leadership and debunks the idea and provides some good explanation (well known though and most famously brought to light by the research efforts of Jim "Built to Last" Collins in his latest book Good to Great). But then he gets more interesting. I expected this to be a extension of non-charismatic leadership style but I was wrong.

He says:
But that's what charismatic leadership does in private businesses. It eats its young. It demands of leaders far more than it gives back. For entrepreneurs, it's toxic.

Then he concentrates on a question I have never seen asked before -- What's good for the leader?. To understand this question better he provides example of Pringle who was the co-founder and charismatic leader of a successful Atlanta ad agency in the '90s. He says "The question is different because, in the case of a private company, the needs and aims of the leader are different, as are the requirements made of him or her." and provides an example like "For one thing, the point of most new businesses is to foster the life the founder wants.".

He continues

For another thing, it can be argued that in a private company what's best for the founder/leader turns out to be what's best for the organization as a whole. In such companies the founder, after all, is almost always the organization's key asset and contributor, the most indispensable piece of the puzzle; why wouldn't an organization want to do everything it could to nurture, protect, and maintain its most valuable asset? Plus, unlike elected leaders with their circumscribed terms and Fortune 500 CEOs with their ever-shrinking job tenures, entrepreneurs typically hope to stick around. They hope to achieve and enjoy the imagined life they set out to make real and to reap the recurring rewards (psychic, material, logistical, social) they set out to earn. Entrepreneurs hope to last, and they need a leadership style that enables them to do so. They need a leadership style that feeds them. And their organizations need a style that feeds them, too.

He now comes to the answer to this question in what he calles the "antiheroic" leadership.

The idea of "antiheroic" leadership has emerged in parts, by accretion, over recent years -- each aspect the product of some entrepreneur's or theorist's small response to requirements and desires that charismatic leadership didn't meet. As a whole the idea is still taking form. For now, though, the best way to describe what antiheroic leadership is -- and how to practice it -- is to describe the four rules that guide leaders putting it to use:

Antihero's Rule No. 1:
Ask why you're here. Know what you want. Don't apologize.

"The sole reason for your company to exist is to meet your needs," says Lanny Goodman, the country's best thinker on this aspect of leadership.Goodman recommends that business owners ask -- and act on the answers to -- four basic questions: What do I need and want out of life? How can my company help me accomplish that? What would such a company look like? And how do we get it to look like that?.

The antiheroic way of leading has nothing to do with being infallible or superhuman or invulnerable or dauntless. It has to do with being true, the root of trust.

Unembarrassed honesty about one's own personal needs, wants, and -- as we'll see -- capabilities is the bedrock that antiheroic leadership is built on. It promotes in its practitioner three surprising and powerful qualities: authenticity, generosity, and a nascent potential for creating a sense of meaning.

Antihero's Rule No. 2:
Don't ask "How?" Ask "Who?" Assume you're not the answer.

So the second rule is to put the right people in the right palces with the right skills rather that DIY kind of thinking and as if everybody else is just supporting cast.

He provides a good example by Jim "Built to Last" Collins:

Management analyst Jim Collins (author of Built to Last and Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap ... and Others Don't) approaches the idea slightly differently. Likening the leader of an organization to the driver of a bus, Collins says that the bus driver's job is not to decide where the bus should go or how to drive it there, but to get the right people on the bus in the first place -- as well as to get the wrong people off the bus, and ultimately to get the right people into the right seats. The right people then will help the leader figure out where to drive and how to drive there. What's more, the right people will attract other right people and inspire them to stick around, diminishing the burden and anxiety felt by leaders who are in the position of having to beguile their flock by themselves.

Antihero's Rule No. 3:
Embrace the difference between "I am my company" and "I have a company."

What this rule amounts to is: Make room. In order for the who-not-how discipline to work, and for the earned authenticity of Rule No. 1 to have its effect, an organization has to have space for others. Even though a company must first satisfy the needs of its owner, an antiheroic leader never behaves as though he or she is the company's face, voice, or embodiment.

Instead of the parent-child relationship that exists between charismatic leaders and their followers, the antiheroic leader ends up with an organization of adults.

Antihero's Rule No. 4:
Forget superman. Be a part of something.

And finally, here's the command to resist emotional temptation -- because the adulation that comes with leading charismatically is seductive. And when you stop building a charismatic/heroic organization, what you will lose is easy to see: You don't get to be a hero anymore. You'll lose something else, too, though. You'll lose your isolation.

"Forget the hero stuff," Mellinger said. "I don't want a hero mentality anywhere in our business -- anywhere in my life. Everybody thinks you have to be a hero to build something. Bull. Do it together. Ask the right questions. Stuff doesn't have to be so hard."

If what you lose is obvious, then so is what you gain: Give up being a hero and, suddenly, you don't always have to perform like one anymore. Not only don't you have to supply all the momentum, all the know-how, all the emotion, you also don't have to fear that if you stop, so will everything else. When it's all about you -- the cult of the charismatic CEO -- you're separated from others. Being a hero is lonely. As an antihero, you get to be a part of what you've created. You get to be fed. At a time in American life when it may be what people crave as much as anything, you get to be part of a community.


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