Want to be a great leader? Want your business to go more of the way you want? Get ready to get uncomfortable. Here are some hard, maybe even brutal truths about leadership. Though, once you get a handle on them you can transform your leadership skills and results, fast.
1. It’s All Your Fault
Let’s get the most difficult truth out of the way first. Don’t worry, it gets easier after this one.
It’s your fault. All of it. Your cofounding partnership got messy, a competitor launched your idea while you just began your fundraising efforts, your own investors are sabotaging your chance to exit the company for a billion dollars, you just got sued hard, your teams are battling each other, or you are running out of money after your offices and garage just go hit by a major storm.
You can pick plenty of people and things to blame for each of these challenges. Most people do. That just won’t help you solve it or do better next time.
It can feel very extreme to take full accountability at first. Even your friends might not get it. Though once you start taking full responsibility and acknowledge that every inch of traction and improvement is all up to you – then you can really start to make things happen. People will really respect you for it too.
2. No One Else Cares
No one else cares about your company, product, family or finances as much as you do. They just don’t. It’s not their fault. They have their own priorities.
They don’t care if you are working like crazy and aren’t having the free time you need for a well-rounded life. They don’t care that you haven’t gotten a paycheck or the reason you want to sell some of your stock is to take care of your sick parents. They don’t care that this business is your baby, and that you love your customers more than just squeezing another dollar out of them.
If you’re not realistic about this you’ll be disappointed in others, get into disagreements and won’t take care of yourself and your responsibilities the way you should.
You can find more caring investors and staff, but you’ve got to protect yourself and put the right frameworks in place to protect these things.
3. Staff Will Get Away with Whatever You Let Them
Your staff will not only follow your example more often than what you say, but the majority will get away with whatever you allow. If you allow poor products, poor customer service, poor productivity and negativity, that’s exactly what you’ll get.
This is improving with the transition to utilizing more remote freelance workers who do what they love and care about their work, rather than just filing a seat for a paycheck. In fact, some may way overdeliver, if you’ll let them. Yet, unless you provide clarity, don’t expect you’ll just get what you hoped for.
4. You’re Going to Have to Fire Someone
Not every one will work out. You can be very diligent in hiring and onboarding. Yet, some hires just won’t work out. Especially once you begin scaling from a handful of initial team members to over a hundred employees.
It is more important to be careful about how you let people go these days. Word travels fast and stays on the internet indefinitely. Though much more harm can be done if you fail to fire them fast.
Hire fast, fire faster. This is hands down the mentality of most of the guests I have interviewed on the DealMakers podcast, where some of the most successful entrepreneurs share how they sold their company for billions.
5. You Can’t Do it All Yourself
Even though managing others can be trying, you can’t do it all yourself. You just can’t. Not unless you only dream of being a one-person band forever. Then you are not really leading anything anyway.
If this isn’t your area of expertise and you don’t have a lot of patience for it, then some of your early hires may include an HR person and general manager.
6. It’s Better to Be Loved, Than Feared
If you haven’t noticed, what works in terms of leadership styles has changed a lot since the 80s and 90s. People have so many more choices today.
Some people may just not get in line without some tough love. Though being inspirational, loved and admired may help you get a lot more of the results you really want than being an ogre.
That may even apply to how you lead in your industry and community, as well as your office and board meetings.
7. They Are Out to Get You
You’re not just being paranoid. Maybe you aren’t even being paranoid enough. They are out to get you.
If you think struggling to the top is hard enough, wait until you make it. Hopefully you won’t need a security team to sneak you in and out of your home in a suitcase, get swindled by your kids, or lock yourself away in your home theater for the last decade of your life, but the truth is that success isn’t always easy either.
There are people thinking of ways to destroy you and your business right now. They will sabotage you from getting to the next level or even getting started. They will be jealous and talk behind your back. They will look for whatever they can take. They will often try to sue you out of business because it’s easier than improving their own product or service, and requires less creativity.
Get a great lawyer on retainer even before day one, and spend time thinking about how you would destroy your own business if you were someone else. Make sure it is protected.
8. You Have to Put Others First
Once you start partnering with others, hiring others, gaining users, taking money from investors, and maybe even go public, you have the responsibility to be your best and put others’ interests first. That may include investors, staff, customers, and the planet.
You’re going to have to make tough decisions, that may not be as in your favor as you would like. You might not even be the best CEO for your business, and will have to be okay giving the role to someone else.
9. You Are Going to Have to Listen, and You Won’t Like Everything You Hear
No matter what type of business you are in, you are going to have to listen to some uncomfortable and negative feedback, and lots of no’s. It’s the only way to prove your product and plans, to improve them and to raise money. They key is to know when to listen and when to act on that information or not.
Former US Secretary of State and four Star General Colin Powell says “Leadership is solving problems. The days soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care.”
10. You are Going to Mess Up Again
The items on this list can help you improve your leadership skills and get more of what you want most. Though you will one day mess up again. If you want to keep leading you’ll have to admit it, own it, and maybe apologize. Despite this, you still have to try. You have to be willing to fail, and take action anyway.