From Superhero to Servant

Theory: the leadership traits that can benefit startups are often the same traits that limit growth later on. 

Here's my thinking:

Startups benefit from agile, spontaneous leaders who quickly pivot when business models are challenged. I've been this kind of leader and it's an addictive buzz. So addictive that many leaders get trapped in that startup mentality which may well serve a startup but...

Mature organizations benefit from consistent, focused leaders who stick to the plan. Leaders that set aside their ego and do whatever is needed to serve their organization. This is when leaders must transform from superheroes to servants. Often this transformation requires them saying and doing the same things over and over. As Patrick Lencioni says in The Advantage: CEOs should consider themselves CROs- Chief Reminding Officers.

Being a servant isn't what most leaders signed up for. Being a servant doesn't sound very exciting. Sounds boring and, well, it can be. Like meditation, its meaning appears after you push through the skin of boredom and resist distraction (shiny objects). There is deep meaning and value in service but it requires leaving behind the ego and trappings of the superhero. What makes it harder is that these traits seemed so invaluable during the early days of a business.

Most leaders are easily bored. Many probably have ADD (guilty). They are like jazz musicians, always improvising. I'm one of the worst offenders. Routine is painful to creative people and most leaders are creative. That's often why they became leaders- they are creative problem solvers and most businesses begin by finding problems to solve. But message improvisations can mutate like a game of telephone as they echo through a growing organization. 

This is why I believe that the biggest threat to healthy, sustainable growth is bored leadership. Successful, sustainable companies do not allow themselves to become victims of distracted leaders but instead insist that these individuals serve the company. 

Saying and doing the same thing over and over is hard, really hard. But I believe, 100% believe, that is the difference between good and great organizations. 

Mastering the art of repetition must be the main work of leadership. I emphasis "art" because if there is no art to repetition, bored leadership will lead to an erosion of passion which is cancer to a healthy organization. Finding the art in repetition is no easy thing, I am still a ways off, but the more I practice the more meaning I find.

Conclusion: leaders must change their agility/consistency mix as their company matures.