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On the emotional roller-coaster of being a leader

Francisco Homem de Mello

This is a sample of Unlocking Potential: my newsletter about how to unlock your potential – and that of your team. Views are my own, and do not represent Qulture.Rocks’ views in any shape or form. The newsletter goes out weekly(ish) and you can subscribe to it here.


Hi there, busy week over here.

Many interesting things happening in the business world: Jeff Bezos’ annual letter to shareholders, Disney’s subscription service announcement, Eric Schmidt’s book about Bill Campbell being released. Very cool stuff to keep any thinking mind very busy.


The loneliness of being a leader…

Leaders feel lonely.

Being a founder and CEO is especially lonely. Nobody cares as much about the company as you do. Ben Horowitz, author of The Hard Thing About Hard Things, says it’s better to default to sharing all your preoccupations with your team as a CEO. As his reasoning goes, nobody will suffer as much as you think; but, they might as well come up with interesting solutions that could help solve the problems at hand.

Why does it feel so lonely at the “top”?

In Andy Grove’s words, the output of a leader is the output of her organization [1]. A CEO’s output is the output of the company; a VP Sales’ output is the output of her organization, which is generally a big chunk of the company’s revenue. You get the picture.

Leaders may use whatever resources available to maximize output. They may leverage their teams to come up with ideas, strategize about new courses of action, delegate, and talk to customers. Whatever. They may also talk with peers and their leaders (or a board) in order to vet plans and get support for initiatives. But in the end, it’s their job to get the output right (the result), regardless of who helped, or in what form (the effort).

At the end of the day, leaders are solely accountable for the results of their teams.

… and the emotional roller-coaster of being a founder

People say being a founder is an emotional roller coaster.

Even tough I think life is by and large an emotional roller coaster (and the Buddhists would probably agree with me), for a founder, the highs are higher, and the lows are lower [2]. According to Paul Graham,

Running a startup is not like having a job or being a student, because it never stops. This is so foreign to most people’s experience that they don’t get it till it happens.

‘I didn’t realize I would spend almost every waking moment either working or thinking about our startup. You enter a whole different way of life when it’s your company vs. working for someone else’s company.’

I can attest to the fact that it really doesn’t stop. I’ve repeatedly heard I need to get a hobby, other than working out, that actually gets me to not think about work. Something that requires full concentration, like boxing, soccer, or squash. [3] Meditating is great, but seems to get exponentially harder to do the more you need it…

By the way, whenever I have a really rough patch at Qulture.Rocks, I go back to reading Ben Horowitz’s book. A couple of chapters do the trick. It’s great to read about what sh%# really looks like. It makes me feel much better 🙂


Recommended readings:

Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, wrote another book, and this time it’s about lessons he learned from Bill Campbell (who was a coach to many Google executives and to Steve Jobs, among other Silicon Valley dignitaries) on how to be a better leader and coach. It’s certainly a read that can make you 10% better, so worth 10 newsletters. I’m showing some solid ROI here. The book is called Trillion Dollar Coach.

Robert Greene (Mastery, Power) releases a major book every few years [4]. Anyway, he’s written another very interesting masterpiece in The Laws of Human Nature. For those who want to better understand this weird species called homo sapiens.


That’s it for today. I hope this helps you get 1% better ????

Suggestions? Call 1-800-ONEPERCENT.

Cheers and have a good week,

Kiko

Footnotes

[1] Grove also mentions the output of neighboring organizations that may be influenced by the leader’s organization.

[2] Being a parent must feel close. Btw, I’m going to be a father next October!!!!! Her name will be Helena, and she’s almost 17 weeks in the making 🙂

[3] Working out, specially in an era of endless supply of podcasts and audiobooks, doesn’t do the trick. It actually injects steroids on a founder’s monkey brain.

[4] Little did I know Ryan Holiday used to work for him as a research assistant back in the day.