Once upon a time, the parts of the body were debating who should be the boss. “It should be me,” blurted the brain. “Without me you couldn’t think.” “No,” chimed in the eyes. “Without us you couldn’t see, so we should be in charge.” “Hold on,” argued the heart. “I’m the engine that drives this body, so clearly, I should be in charge.” “Wait,” waved the hands. “We have all the skill, so we’re the obvious choice.”
As they argued, the sphincter timidly mumbled, “Actually, I think I should be in charge.” The other body parts roared with laughter. Embarrassed and angry, the sphincter clinched up. Pretty soon the brain got fuzzy, the eyes got blurry, the heart started palpitating and the hands got shaky. “You win,” the weary body parts eventually conceded to the sphincter. “You’re the boss.”
The moral of the story… to be the boss you don’t need brains, vision, heart or skills, you just have to be an asshole.
Truth is, the role of the traditional boss is obsolete. Leadership is where it’s at, and leadership requires a special kind of person. Brains, vision, heart and skills are the foundation, but real leadership takes something more.
Dare To Lead
Real leadership takes balls (metaphorically speaking, of course). Proclaiming, “I’m going this way, who will follow?” is a profound act of courage because the answer might be “no one.” Sometimes you have to blaze part of the trail by yourself before anyone is willing to walk it with you.
That’s why to lead others you must first be willing to go forward alone. You must believe in yourself because there will be times when no one else believes in you. You have to be willing to make tough decisions and to do things that aren’t always easy or popular. Leadership requires risk and laying yourself bare. Leaders must dare.
Any of that sound familiar to you? It should, because most of you reading this are entrepreneurs at some stage of your game and the gifts required to be a great leader are the same qualities that you possess to make you a great entrepreneur.
Misfits, Rebels & Troublemakers
Leaders and entrepreneurs are cut from the same cloth. They’re both crazy enough to believe they can make a difference – perhaps even change the world – and that’s exactly why they can and do. It takes a unique mindset to ask “why not” when others simply say “why”.
Leaders and entrepreneurs believe that "good enough" never is, because with creativity and imagination there’s always room for innovation and improvement. Without creativity and imagination there is no future, just more yesterday and today. That simply won’t do, because leaders and entrepreneurs are never satisfied with the status quo. By their very nature, they learn from the past, live in the moment and constantly look toward the future.
Over the past decade and a half, America’s small businesses have created 65% of all new jobs in the U.S. All of those small businesses were launched by leaders – entrepreneurs with the vision to see an opportunity, the boldness to reach for it and the creativity and imagination to exploit it. People just like you.
That’s why now, more than ever, business needs leaders, not just bosses. Entrepreneurs fuel the engine that drives innovation and the economy. Entrepreneurs lead. In fact, they have a responsibility to lead and to make the most of their unique gifts to advance society and humanity.
The Path To Success
Every moment in life is a chance to get it right, but if you don’t it becomes a chance to learn. What’s important is the forward momentum. Failing isn’t the problem, letting failure stop you is the problem. Entrepreneurial leaders understand that. It’s often a winding road, an uphill climb and a shot in the dark but the effort is never wasted when the goals are worthwhile.
Effective leadership requires a goal, someone willing to lead people to that goal and people willing to be lead. Goals are central to success. Business is no different. You have a goal for your business. You have to be willing to lead people to help you achieve that goal and you need talented, committed collaborators willing to work with you.
Note that I said “collaborators” and not “employees” and work “with” you not work “for” you. That’s not semantics it’s a subtle yet profound shift in perception. Understanding the difference is fundamental to leading versus merely bossing. Understanding the difference is fundamental to not being an asshole.
It’s Already In You
If you inspire others to have confidence in you, but more importantly you inspire others to have confidence in themselves, you are a leader. If you lift up whole groups by empowering individuals, you are a leader. If you can enable people to do their best and are smart enough to stay out of the way while they’re doing it, you are a leader. If you share the credit but bear the blame, you are a leader. Finally, in the words of John Quincy Adams, “if your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
As an entrepreneur, inspiration, dreams, learning, doing and becoming are part of your DNA. You already possess the skills to be a great leader. Find them within you, then get out there and lead.