When my son began his training as a QB in middle school, the coach, a former ex-marine, remarked that his calls were hardly heard by his other teammates. For those who are not familiar with American football, the QB begins calling out numbers and terms to instruct his teammates what will be routes and instructions when the ball is snapped. And as the game is played in a large field with cheerleaders screaming and spectators chatting, the QB must shout those instructions above that din. So I undertook the task of driving the kid to a field, and I would sit at least 50 yards away and let him do his thing. By the next game, he was being clearly heard. And as QB and Captain, he must be first and only speaker on the field. Even during the huddle, his back is to the opponents and his teammates must surround him and listen to every word being spoken. I see that this experience and example applies to any leader of a business and startups. The leader must speak loud enough to be heard.
To me, part of leadership is to be the unquestionable figurehead of the company. He is the “loudest” and, like every huddle rule states, his teammates must listen to his every word and instructions. And he must appear to be the leader to everyone else out there. However, I don’t think leaders are born. Like my son, they must be trained.
Then I have noted two types of leaders – those who “manage” and those who lead by inspiration and trust. I have observed from personal experience the differences between both types. Once, at a law firm that I had resigned, my personal staff and team decided to quit as well. One quality that differentiated from the other “followers” was that they remained past the witching hour of 5PM to get the job done. I never had to ask them. And when I asked one team member why she was quitting, she mentioned that it would not be “fun” without me. In other words, the work was enjoyable for whatever reasons under my leadership. Another way of saying it, it is no longer “work” but a convivial, team putting together 100% to get things done.
Can this environment be fostered creatively? Interestingly, the most successful high school football teams get together to travel or bunk together prior to the football season. A great football team must act in synchrony. If not, the team fails to execute. Decisions are made in seconds. The plays also last for only seconds. Yet to a achieve success, the team becomes one homogenous group. And I myself encourage that kind of format to develop business teams as well. So leadership generates respect, and the team becomes one with that leadership. And with startups, that is key to their success.