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If The Shoe Fits: You And Your Market

Friday, July 28th, 2017

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here.

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mYou could be a

  • charismatic, visionary leader;
  • talented manager;
  • brilliant developer;
  • fine storyteller; and
  • able to raise multiple, large investment rounds.

You could still fail.


For the same reason nearly half of startups fail.

42% of startups fail because of no market need according to CB Insights.

Peter Drucker says it best.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Ducks in a Row: Humble Or Charismatic

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017


Many of the actions of people such as Travis Kalanick, Donald Trump, Parker Conrad, etc., are deplored, yet they seem to have no effect on people’s opinions.

They go their merry way while thousands of far superior leaders are ignored.

When the subject does come up the usual response involves the infamous “yes, but…”

Why is that?

I finally found an answer that makes sense from Margarita Mayo, a Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior at IE Business School in Madrid.

Mayo terms the first type of leader ‘humble’ and the second ‘charismatic’.

Humble leaders improve the performance of a company in the long run because they create more collaborative environments. They have a balanced view of themselves – both their virtues and shortcomings – and a strong appreciation of others’ strengths and contributions, while being open to new ideas and feedback. (…)

[Charismatic leaders], despite their grandiose view of themselves, low empathy, dominant orientation toward others, and strong sense of entitlement, their charisma proves irresistible. Followers of superheroes are enthralled by their showmanship: through their sheer magnetism, narcissistic leaders transform their environments into a competitive game in which their followers also become more self-centered, giving rise to organizational narcissism, as one study shows.

Mayo’s research and the other’s she cites (with links) provide proof of the value produced by the humble leader vs. their charismatic counterpart.

However, I think there is another problem happening in the background that is word-related.

Ask most people if they want to be remembered as ‘humble’ or ‘charismatic’ and most will choose charismatic.

Warren Buffet aside, ‘humble’ is more often associated with dorky, weak, shy, and unassuming.

Not adjectives most people would choose to describe themselves.

Thanks to Wally Bock for leading me to this article.

Image credit: Edvin J.

2 Simple Strategies to Avoid Bad Hires

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015


I often say that I’m successful now because I’ve made every mistake in the book. The key is I’ve learned from those mistakes and it’s rare — if ever — that I make the same one twice. –Robert Herjavec

Herjavec wrote a good post on hiring that covers many bases, but ignores two critically important factors.

  1. The most common reason for a bad hire is charm and the best way to guard against it is preparation.
  2. The most common interviewing  error to avoid can be summed up this way: don’t lead the candidate and don’t follow where the candidate leads.

In fact, if you do nothing other than what is described in 1 and 2 your hires will improve significantly.

Flickr image credit: qthomasbower

Expand Your Mind: Attitudes

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

Today we look at what’s going on in and around your head.

According to current research, being an overconfident, rude jerk is a great way to get ahead and have people look up to you. (In reality this only applies to men.)

In other words, overconfident people are perceived as having more social status, and social status is golden. (…) …research suggests that we also see rudeness as a sign of power.

Offended? Good. Because before you decide that jerkism is your best path to success see why it doesn’t really work most of the time

For all their charisma, bravery and bravado, jerks don’t do as well as you might think.

Jerkism covers a multitude of sins including positive thinking (free registration required), especially when it holds 110% sway over the minds of leaders.

But several recent studies have critiqued the positive thinking movement, highlighting the negative personal and organizational effects (…) In short, Prozac leaders can wind up believing their own narrative that everything is going well.

People spend large amounts of time these days trying to assimilate all the available information applicable to their job, project, etc, because it will improve their results. But maybe that’s not such a good thing; instead consider the idea of two lists.

It’s hard to do because maybe, just maybe, that next piece of information will be the key to our success. But our success actually hinges on the opposite: on our willingness to risk missing some information. Because trying to focus on it all is a risk in itself. We’ll exhaust ourselves. We’ll get confused, nervous, and irritable.

What will your life be like as you age in an era of DIY toughness? If you are lucky, EngAGE, a program that enhances life for the 99% will become a model.

“We see people without money, who had very hard lives, who are not aware of their own potential,” said Maureen Kellen-Taylor, the chief operating officer of EngAGE, a program in the Los Angeles area that provides arts and other classes for some 5,000 people — the vast majority of them low-income — living in senior apartment communities.

Flickr image credit: pedroelcarvalho

Entrepreneurs: Answers to Your Questions

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

I ended Tuesday’s post about micro cultures by saying, “That’s why cultural fit or, at the very least, cultural synergy, is the most important trait to look for when hiring at every level.”

The result was several phone calls and a few emails asking for specifics. I’ve offered specifics multiple times over the years, so just click the links for the answers.

But when all is said and done, the hardest part of good hiring is walking away from candidates with the right skills and the wrong attitude.



Be the Thursday feature – Entrepreneurs: [your company name]
Share the story of your startup in 300 words or less.
Send it in an email along with your contact information.
I’ll be in touch.
Questions? Email or call me at 360.335.8054 Pacific Time.

Flickr image credit: Ashish

Leadership’s Future: Defying Conventional Wisdom

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

conventional-wisdomTrue leadership often defies conventional wisdom about what works and what doesn’t in order to succeed.

Conventional wisdom says that a high school with 4100 students and 300 teachers is doomed to fail, which it did until a giant dose of in-house of initiative and tenacity turned it around.

In 2000 only a quarter of Brockton students passed statewide exams and a third dropped out; compare that to now.

This year and last, Brockton outperformed 90 percent of Massachusetts high schools.

This wasn’t accomplished by a charismatic, visionary leader who came from outside, firing up the troops and getting rid of dead wood.

It came from a group of teachers working under a principal who did nothing.

That team of leaders took the initiative, meeting on their own time to craft an approach that would work.

Then Susan Szachowicz and a handful of fellow teachers decided to take action. They persuaded administrators to let them organize a school wide campaign that involved reading and writing lessons into every class in all subjects, including gym.

An approach that didn’t cost more money, but one that fundamentally changed Brockton’s culture.

Moreover, they had the tenacity to keep selling the concepts to their peers in the face of doubt and resistance. Not just with words, but with support and training.

In just one year test scores rose dramatically.

Overnight, the restructuring committee gained enormous credibility, and scores of once-reluctant teachers wanted to start attending its Saturday meetings, which continue today.

Szachowicz became principal in 2004, replacing the positional leader who did nothing.

Read the article (it includes a link to the Harvard study) and remember it the next time conventional wisdom tries to dictate to you what can and can’t be done.

Image credit: Tombstone image generator

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