The Myth of the Founder

Many of us are obsessed with business founders. Specifically, what sets them apart from the rest of us? Is drive, vision, or a special insight that helps them change entire industries seemingly over night and seem to pull millions and even billions of dollars in profit from thin air? Or is it simpler, is it how they run meetings or make decisions? Is it because the take cold showers, are vegan and meditate under the full moon?

Founders fill a usual space in our culture where in they are guru, eccentric, celebrity and sometimes even comic book villain.

And why should they not? Jeff Bezos completely changed how we shop and how the internet works. Similarly, Mark Zuckerburg changed the way we communicate forever and now sways public discourse. Meanwhile Elon Musk can skyrocket the currency of a meme with a single tweet all while being in a literal space race with Jeff Bezos.

So of course, if you could become one of them, wouldn’t we? Or at the least figure out who the next one will be and invest.

These are the reasons the myths about founders are so powerful. Their stories become a filter for who gets investment capital to start companies and someone we can model ourselves after to replicate their success.

The Paradox of Humility

While humility is often venerated as a key quality of leadership it seems it is rarely found in real life leaders. We agree as a society that we value this quality in a leader but when we look at many famous and everyday leaders–those chosen in the workplace, in other organizations, in politics who we favor don’t seem to represent what we claim to value.

Many writers on the topic of leadership have demonstrated time and again through examples that humility is at the backbone of the most successful leaders and companies right along with persistence. Yet these are the exceptional; the exception.

Evidence also demonstrates the when it comes to being promoted to leadership roles, climbing an origination’s ladder and winning political election one has a much better chance when they are not humble.

It seems we tend to elect leaders based on their confidence, assertiveness ability to be ignorant of their limitations. This is why the incompetent are overwhelmingly represented in leadership roles. The recipe of victory seems to be overconfidence, hiding limitations, don’t worry about people’s opinions and to lean in even harder when one’s talents can’t back up what they promise.

Part of the problem then is what we value in a leader—the market will provide what we value most.

Be Inspiring, Anyone Can be a Boss

The job of a leader is challenging, especially since it comes with the responsibility of success but also the well-being of the teams of people in the organization. Here are some tips on inspiring your team.

Don’t be bossy. Being a leader is different than being a boss. Any one can assign work and punish people who don’t complete it. Leadership requires a high level of responsibility and personal involvement in the projects one oversees. Leadership is more about influence than authority.

Make your team feel safe. No goal is protected entirely from failure. It can happen by chance or human error. Allow your team to feel safe failing with you. If something goes wrong don’t immediately blame the team or point fingers about specific mistakes.

Motivate and encourage people. Use positive and encouraging feedback. Help team members see that their ideas matter. Encourage them to develop their talents. Make sure to note when their work has improved or impresses you.

 

What is a Leader?

What does leadership mean exactly? The word can conjure many images in the mind.

A political leader. Someone chasing a cause they are passionate about or that is personal to them.

Someone exploring the unknown and the very new. Someone cutting a path through the metaphorical jungle to bring the rest of us along with them.

An executive, CEO or business owner developing their company, their strategies, products and services to beat out the competition.

Leaders are almost always helping themselves, but they cannot be a leader if they are not also helping others do the right things. They set the direction and tone. They build inspirational visions for people to get behind. They create something never before seen.

Leaders also need to be the compass and use their skills in guidance to help others reach the correct destination in a ethical and fair way.

 

Motivation and Energy

A compelling vision provides the foundation for leadership. But it’s leaders’ ability to motivate and inspire people that helps them deliver that vision.

While leaders with a compelling vision provide the keystone for leadership, it is a leader’s ability to motivate people and inspire people that assist them in delivering that vision.

As an example: when you begin a new project, likely you will have lots of energy for it. This makes it easy to win support at first. It can be difficult to find ways to maintain your vision and that energy after that new project magic fades. Good leaders know this and they work hard continuously through the life of the project to help people with their needs and goals to keep the energy up.

To do this, leaders link two expectations. That hard work leads to good results and that good results lead to attractive rewards or incentives.

This motivates people to continue to work hard to achieve the goals and dreams they have for themselves.

 

How to Stand Out As a Future Leader

What does it take to be considered an emerging leader? What are these people doing that sets them apart, not just in the eyes of their current leaders, but also their peers?

How do emerging leaders become viewed as such by their colleagues and superiors?

It isn’t about being a yes-person or company person or a thankless workhorse. It is about influence. It’s about doing things that make people feel good about the work when you are on the team.

They should choose to follow you, your advice and suggestions when offered. Better yet, become the kind of person from whom people seek suggestions and advice.
Influential employees identify problems, take them to people in power, offer practical, thoughtful solutions, note their own role in whatever mess needs mending, and offer to take part in the repair work they suggest.

Being proactive, with a plan and outlining your own roll in it with honesty. This demonstrates that you see your own success as tied directly to the success of the entire organization, that one isn’t just “making moves” for their own benefit.