Thursday, February 14, 2013

Managing is a DO...Leading is a BE

Last Monday I spoke for my friend Rod Smith, Adjunct Professor of Leadership at Grand Canyon University, about entrepreneurship, leadership, international travel, raising capital, and a little about a woman's experience with all the above. Mostly I focused on my experience in building this company, especially with a partner with a very different leadership style.

Near the end of my talk, really an interactive exercise, a woman asked what one thing I would tell someone just starting his or her leadership journey. It's difficult when put on the spot to identify just one thing, so at the time all I could muster was something I shared on my personal Facebook page as what I'd tell any young woman entering the workforce: Have an opinion. Stand by it. Stand for it.

As I thought more about this on the drive home and over the last few days, I think I'd still give a similar response, but I'd tweak it. Today, I'd say, "Stand for something. To obtain followers, you need to have a strong belief about something and be willing to sacrifice for it. You must have a vision that people believe in, too, that when communicated inspires them to believe with you and act on the behalf of that vision. You must be unwavering in that belief...you cannot doubt...or if you doubt, you cannot share it. And the way you build trust in you, in your vision, is through integrity...you walk the talk...and most importantly, you are impeccable with your word."

I add the italics to emphasize a phrase from one of my favorite books, The Four Agreements. The first, and IMHO most important of all the Agreements, is BE IMPECCABLE WITH YOUR WORD. Specifically, the phrase means (as Dr. Seuss might say) "Say what you mean, and mean what you say." If you say you will do something, do it. Commit to something, and do not back out. Deliver on your promises. Do not use your word against others.

I'm sometimes accused of taking too long to make a decision. Like many women, I like to have my "ducks in a row", but in entrepreneurship, you rarely have enough time to line everything up. There just are too many decisions to make each day, and half of them needed to be decided yesterday. You have to be nimble, adjustable, and ready with a backup plan when something unexpected happens...like a vendor's death, or a request for presentation in China the next week.

To be a leader, a good leader at least, you need to hold steady on your beliefs, and as best as possible, deliver on your word. Take time to think it through if you must because if you fail too many times, your word becomes meaningless, and people begin to doubt you. They stop trusting that you can deliver. And your leadership fades away, the followers off to seek someone else to follow.

For this and many other reasons, it takes both a manager AND a leader to build a company, and it's why so many entrepreneurs end up replaced once a company's growth skyrockets. Entrepreneurs are doers, but what a company needs at that point is a leader.

So to summarize and encapsulate, my advice now goes Have an opinion. Stand by it. Stand for it. Deliver on it by being impeccable with your word.
 ~WJ