Sunday, February 18, 2007

You have to really want to lead

As I think back on all of my efforts to be entrepreneurial, one of the missing pieces that pops up all too frequency is leadership, or lack thereof. It simply is not enough to have a great idea, a clearly identified market, a great plan, and intense effort at executing that plan, if you don't have a strong leadership bent. You have to really want to lead.

I have to admit that a huge motivation for my own entrepreneurial efforts was so that I would no longer have to work under mediocre managers or work in stifling bureaucracies. Wanting to sell and wanting to lead were simply not high on my list of either requirements or desires.

It's not that I had not recognized these essential qualities, but simply that I was presuming, or at least hoping, that I could focus on developing a stream of technology innovations and then focus on strategically licensing those technologies to businesses who would then package them and market them as they saw fit. I think that strategy could have worked, and in a handful of situations it almost did, but I neglected to recognize that even in such a hard-core technology development and licensing approach, selling and leading are just as critical despite the fact that the target markets have a somewhat different profile. Selling is still selling and leading is still leading.

Another problem is that one of my core beliefs is that flat, collaborative efforts are inherently superior to deep, top-down, hierarchical organizations. Whether that is true or not, my own experiences are certainly evidence that deep, top-down hierarchies are certainly easier to put together and achieve short-term results, assuming that you are passionately committed to the concepts of a "general", "lieutenants", and "foot soldiers", which I passionately am not. That structure is something that I can and have been tolerant of, but it is definitely not something that I am passionately in favor of.

If I do ever try to head down the entrepreneurial track again, it will be because my top two desires and requirements are salesmanship and leadership.

If at age 52 I still haven't shown any hint of passionately wanting to sell and passionately wanting to lead, it is an open question whether it is likely that I would ever develop those skills.

I do question whether the desire to sell and the desire to lead is a native ability that yo are born with, or is a learned skill that can be mastered by reading a few books and taking a few seminars. I remain unconvinced either way.

Do I have "an inner general" waiting to lead, or is that a fiction that simply doesn't apply to me?

There is an old adage: "Lead, follow, or stay the <bleep> out of the way." I've seen no evidence to prove it wrong. For me, the result has been either that I unhappily follow for a short while, and tend to prefer to stay out of the way rather than be held hostage to the ravages of somebody's "leadership" style.

Should I go ahead and read a few books and take a few seminars is see if some of the "magic" rubs off on me or would it likely be a waste of time?

What top-three books and top-three seminars on leaderhip would you recommend? Ditto for salesmanship while we're at it. You can either comment here or on your own blog and link to this post, or both.

I am also curious what key life experiences enabled you to realize that you had a passion for leadership. What top-three life experiences really made the difference for you in developing your leadership skills?

-- Jack Krupansky

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