Yesterday I was humbled, in the very best sense of the word.
Let me set some context. For the last four years, I’ve served on the board of the Colorado Chapter of the Entrepreneurs Organization (EO). This year I’ve been handed the reigns as President. Yesterday was our annual retreat where we gathered to share experiences, get to know each other at greater depth and find inspiration from fantastic speakers outside of our chapter.
It’s in this context that I was presented with a mirror to reflect on my own ideals of leadership vs. what I perceive is the perception of the general public. I was granted a few minutes to present a vision for the Chapter in the up coming year. My delivery didn’t match the words I wished to speak. Truly this is a struggle of mine. Often I find my mouth rarely matches what I feel inside. It seems the pen is a better tool for me yet I crave the ability to inspire with my spoken words.
I then sat down, our guest speaker, John Hope Bryant took the mic and commanded the crowd with a timely message, filled with gravitas, and conviction. His message of “How the Poor Can Save Capitalism” was relevant and timely. He OWNED the room and inspired us all. For me, this was truly leadership.
For years, I’ve wrestled with what it means to lead a chapter of entrepreneurs. Shouldn’t the leader be a shining star of the entrepreneurial community? Reflective of what it’s like to be a financial success, raking in millions of dollars, driving a nice car, giving back to several non-profits, the ideal family man (or woman), physically and mentally sharp and engaging, capable of rousing the attention of the masses? I’m sure I could add to this list of what I’d argue the vast measure of society would consider a “successful entrepreneur,” and I would submit I am none of these things.
At least not right now.
I’m divorced, drive a 14 yr old pickup truck with nearly 400,000 miles, have pre-revenue start-up, personally enough collective cash in my bank account to last me to last me until June. I rent my home and in many situations, I’m a bit slow to catch the wit of quick conversation.
I remember hearing another entrepreneur, Jerry Colonna, say “if you ever want to freak out an entrepreneur just ask them if they are nervous that at some point people will realize they are a fraud?” That feeling couldn’t ring more true to me.
I’m not complaining or looking for encouragement; I am just stating the fact that entrepreneurship, leadership, and radical self-reflection are all hard, and in driving back from yesterday’s retreat in the mountains my definition of what it means to be a leader of entrepreneurs shifted a bit.
I believe entrepreneurial leadership is a mix of compassion for oneself and others. Perseverance to shoulder-on for what you love no matter what. The ability to inspire peers towards a better tomorrow. Lastly, the humility to know that there isn’t an “S” on my chest.
Certainly there are other career choices out there that would pay more, perhaps have a bit less stress. I’ll quote Bryant here and say “entrepreneurs work 18 hours days to avoid having a job.” Yet I am unsure there is another profession that can impact society greater than a socially minded entrepreneur. For that, it’s worth the struggle.
Photo credit to Mike Arzt