Hi! I’m Max Volkhov, chief R&D officer at Mitgo Company. The Internet is full of articles about how and what to do and what not to do as a leader in a company. How to become a leader, how to stay one, and then how to join the ranks of those who give out advice at conferences on the same leadership. In short, from a geek introvert with an idea to a charismatic leader riding a unicorn in a few clicks and how-to articles.
Obviously, this is not the case. In my opinion, the problem with modern leaders is that they are not, but society won’t let them admit it. First of all, to themselves. Remember the movie “BlackBerry” (be sure to watch it if you haven’t already)? So, there is an episode there that perfectly illustrates the publicly approved view of that very magical transformation of a techie with a quiet voice into a powerful charismatic business shark. Thanks to the editing, which left us to speculate for ourselves. A magical time-shift and a renewed hero is on the screen. And we are already speculating that he “overpowered himself”, “found an inner fulcrum”, “comprehended the rocket-sense of team-management” and other such things.
Fortunately, it doesn’t work that way in life. You can pump up your leadership skills, but to do so, you need to realize that you already have something to pump up. With all due respect to business schools that teach Executive MBAs, they train you to manage large or very large established structures.
If you can understand the rules and laws by which a company has been operating for a decade, you are cool and they love you. If you try to change something without having leadership qualities, well, most likely, your departure will be handled by the press service in the most beautiful way. The first female CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Carly Fiorina, is a prime example. In her book Tough Choices, she describes how HP’s conservative board of directors wouldn’t accept her. Most likely they did, and the reason – the failed merger with Compaq – was the formal point because no one went after Fiorina and her ideas and supported them.
But how to check whether you are a leader or not? The easiest way is to start your own business. This doesn’t mean dropping everything on Friday night and opening a startup on Monday. A pet project around which thoughts have been swirling for the past month is a perfectly healthy way to test yourself. Even optimal, because there’s only one person at risk – you. If you can’t manage yourself, scaling to more participants is unlikely to lead to anything positive.
There are two obvious outcomes: nothing works and something seems to work. We will deal with the latter a little later, but the first option does not mean that everything is lost. Perhaps the pet project has immediately shown itself to be unviable. Try something else. It didn’t work out again, well, check yourself not as a leader, but as a person from the founding team, but not in the first role. In this case, both when you are in charge and when you are the first after the CEO, the principle of “skins on the line” is important.
What matters is what you put on the project – your money, time, and effort. Not just a hired employee who will get a salary anyway, but an entrepreneur who risks losing something. Even if it is not so much, but it is a risk.
And when the first steps are successful, it is worth talking about two big mistakes that leaders of their business often make without noticing it. The first is framing importance. This is when you think that the awesomeness of your idea can be conveyed with a couple of words that will immediately ignite a flame in the interlocutor, and he will be filled. It doesn’t. It happens, but such cases are told about as if they were legends. You want it to be so – spend time to convey the importance.
The second big mistake stems from the first. Some leaders have the amazing skill of disappearing unnoticed when it comes to communication. They can boldly walk past important conversations as if it were a storefront of embarrassing products. But let’s be honest – communication is important, and a leader needs to be able to listen and speak in such a way that his team doesn’t see him as the developer of a new programming language. After all, only through effective communication can collective results be achieved and unnecessary misunderstandings avoided.
Therefore, dear leaders, if you have found in yourself a tendency to disappear during important conversations, do not be frightened! It’s normal, but it’s something that needs to be combated.
There are Leaders and leaders. The latter are taught not to manage, but to fit in and not to interfere much in the work of the well-established mechanism – to hang balls, to order a study about the corporate culture and to speak about it. The former are ready to create and change. But there is only one way to check if you are really you – by walking in the shoes of a leader at least within the sandbox of your pet project.
The second important point. Communication skills. You can’t get anywhere without this. Even if it seems that leadership skills are there. Speechless, silent leaders are good for movies about dictators or godfathers, but not for business.