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What Is Leadership?

Updated: May 8, 2023

In one episode I welcome Jacob Gray, cofounder of Chosen Family Wine, who truly lives life like a point guard: he brings the team in, runs the plays, and ensures everyone gets the credit when they win, but takes all the blame when the loss.

This next entrepreneur exhibits true leadership, and that is what I want to highlight today.

What is leadership, why is it important, and why should an entrepreneur care?

First, it is important to note leadership is not seniority or a person’s position in the hierarchy of a company. I majored in Business Management and Leadership at Portland State University for my undergraduate degree, but that does not make me a leader.

Being a leader is not a job one applies for; in fact, it is not something that can be analyzed at all because the analyst misconceives the task my gauging popularity, power, showmanship, or wisdom in long-range planning, per Harvard Business Review. None of those attributes make a person a leader.

There are many definitions of leadership and many inspirational leadership quotes that can be found online, but one of the best I found came from Tech Target: leadership is the ability of an individual or a group of individuals to influence and guide followers or other members of an organization.

And that is why leadership is important to an entrepreneur.

This is not a, “do as you are told” philosophy, but more of a, “do as you would be done by” state of mind.

It is The Golden Rule as coined by Dale Carnegie in the book How to Win Friends and Influence People: “treat others as you would like to be treated”.

As a leader, it is imperative to be willing to do what you are asking to be done. We talk about being the jack-of-all-trades when being an entrepreneur – and that is also true about being a leader, because leadership is about reliability.

I can relate to cleaning the floors, picking up trash, working a 80-hour work week, putting in time on the weekend, etc.

Misery loves company, and mistakes are inevitable, but a leader views mistakes as learning opportunities and not a time for discipline of a team member.

Leadership is not to be confused with management. A leader will emphasize innovation while a manager may be more inclined to emphasize rationality and control. A manager may or may not be a leader, and a leader may or may not be a manager.

There are many books one can read to help become a better leader, but here are a few highlights to think about:

Listening is a vital leadership skill. Give the speaker full attention, ask questions, watch body language. Be a critical thinker and keep an open mind while asking questions. Perfect providing constructive feedback to others - not criticism, feedback.

Understand time management: short term goals, long term goals, daily goals. Prioritize and plan accordingly because planning and implementation helps define who the leader might be. When a decision is made, how will it be implemented by?

Delegation and motivation are key! Nobody can do everything, no matter how much we try as entrepreneurs, we need to delegate work to others. I can always find someone better than me at something I hate doing but know how to do. Those we delegate to must feel cared for and about or the quality of work may suffer.

Every company has 3 types of employees: a CAVE employee, an RIP employee, or an engaged employee.

CAVE means the employee is ‘constantly against everything” - they hate everything. Traffic sucks, parking is horrible, the food tastes weird, the coworker stinks.

RIP means the employee is ‘retired in place’ - they will come in and do the bare minimum until retirement. I used to be one of these employees. Do not believe me – go back and listen to my self-interview episode.

Engaged means just that – an engaged employee. A team member there every day ready to make a difference – even an aspiring leader.

A leader’s job is to help get those CAVE and RIP team members to become engaged team members.

At the end of the day, the better the leader is, the better career a team member will have because a leader will ensure everyone grows.

And that is why an entrepreneur should care. As an entrepreneur, many communities and community members may look up to you as a leader. Maya Angelou once said, “A leader sees greatness in other people. He nor she can be much of a leader if all she sees is herself”

Being a leader is about improving everyone around you, so we all get better as a global community of entrepreneurs.


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