7 Leadership lessons while juggling a start up and new job


Over the past couple of months, I assumed a new role at a startup. Before this, I was at a managed services and consultancy firm I’d co-founded.  Over this time I’ve learnt a lot about leadership and how we take it by default that you can pick to be a good/bad manager. Leadership is required learning, and below I share some of what I’ve learnt.

1.  The last word
To win you need strategy analysis and clear concise actions that lead to growth with tactical fallback plans. The skills of an elite unit of special forces are widely varied and diverse that if they worked together in a normal work environment none would get home to their spouses without killing each other. That they work in extreme environments and rely upon each other to survive changes each others’ perspective to see the next person as a brother in arms. They work to accomplish the mission and keep each other out of harm’s way. If each one had to have the last word or wanted to run the last mile to win that coveted medal of honour, none would make it out alive with an over 90% success record.

In your daily grind, childish egos, pointless rivalries and unstated schemes to halt progress. There is no all-seeing eye for all these to be apparent. If you want to have the last word on all matters you will not make progress and you are bound in a circular tussle of words – not action.

2. Letting it go
Which brings me to my second point that it easier to deal with conflict by letting go of pettiness, mundane and repetitive tasks as well as stating clearly that which does not inspire you to produce your best work. No one was born with a vision of spending the whole day pivoting excel sheets. If you don’t like it say so and find a way to gravitate towards a role that will inspire the best work from you. Scientists, engineers or even business experts have to have a part art aspect to their job that they can horn down and be proud to look at.

Avoidance technics like meetings, long extended lunches and unexplained apathy will only leave your imagination exhausted as your brain feeds off that negative energy. By letting go of negativity your attitude and change in perspective will elate you towards new and exciting projects, doors to new teams and fun ways of ensuring you are a part of the big goals of the business.

3. Levels
I’m a big Lego fun though I missed the movies at the theatre I can tell you building a tall structure is no easy feat. To get it all done in limited time and with limited resources and sometimes skills can bring out the best or worst in Leadership. It is not all about levels and yet the levels determine the outcome. To get it all done and be ready for opening day, many skills, tactics and actions have to be employed. Think cranes, scaffolding, lifts and all that is needed to ensure everyone is working towards the same goal – opening day.

You want to look at the sky and point with your finger and say “I was a part of that vision and I have a brick or mortar in that giant puzzle that was laid by moi.”

Conversely, there are egos to be nursed and lazy but talented people to be nudged into action with whom you are going to relate to at different levels. In as much as you will gravitate towards similar personality types and try and avoid those that have a world view much different than yours. It will make do that you emphatically address certain people by treating them to the level they have assigned themselves (not everyone can step up and think entrepreneurially), with mutual respect to those on the same level, a new-found respect to those that step up, and a deep admiration to those admired, revelance to those that you want to mirror, and worshipping those deep enough to inspire you to the levels of Master Yoda. My hope is the Force will guide you to see each person for whom they truely are and along the way you will learn from all, apprentice or Master.

4. Layered
People peel off multiple layers when they get a little tipsy. However, that is the easiest customary way of interacting their are many alternatives to getting to know someone better. Team Members and peers are easier to work with if we understand their current status, ambitions, how they fair in other situations. There might not be opportunity to get away and go for team-building, so it is an every now and then challenge that you need to find new and meaningful ways to talk, share, connect and interact with the people you sit next to in cubicles and walk past in the hallways of the corporate jungle.

No emotionless robot will come take your place even with the best AI. They hire humans for a reason. They train and coach. Mentoring and coaching are also huge opportunities for growth for both parties. Multiple layers to people exist so that the challenge is not insurmountable, but that we can get a new chance each time to see a person in new light when we peel a layer we like (do not like).

5. Losing
Is only the next step in crafting a new and better way to reaching people. It is only by allowing ourselves these mistakes and religion that we can harness the immense ability to recover from them and build our repertoire at making better decisions.

In the ‘Art of War’ many things seem complex to put into simple things you can actually do to win. Conversely, the simplest solutions exist to solving and winning at problems you encounter as a leader. Allowing your score sheet a few reds and missed chances will increase the odds that you pay attention to what is important (results), not lose sight of who matters (customers or people) and repeatedly garner more confidence to forge forward (business continuity). Think clearly and do not enslave yourself to loss.

6. Lost in translation
Is not just a catchy movie title but many a time things you write say or do will be misunderstood. Instinct is to prove yourself right. Take heed that you do not lose focus for there is a fine line between being assertive to corky bordering on becoming the office bitch.

In a nutshell, you still meet many a person who for all intents and purposes will pose a challenge in communication. Find a balance between formal, direct and confrontational for you to work better together.

7. Last but not least
When all is said and done draw the rules, the lines and rules of engagement then tear up the pieces for no single punchline or tagline will work every given Sunday.

Asserting yourself as an authority will only get you in the door it is repeatedly winning with people and at work do you still get a chance to pitch for the next season. And as with all seasons that come and go change come. How you respond and manage the ensuing changes will determine your longevity. Even your most beloved cast members of your Company come and go and you have no choosing in who gets written out of the script or who loses the plot, play and play your part well. Scratch that…play on and play on.