When I think of leadership, the people who come to mind are great orators and those who through extreme circumstances brought people through trouble. A leader is not a subtle observer, but a powerful inspiration to people who would hardly have moved without that influence. There are obviously good and bad leaders, so being a leader isn’t good on its own. Often, we think of the leaders that exist in politics, religion, and business, but leaders are everywhere. Important consideration must be given not only to how one becomes a leader, but how they become a good one.
Two of the most recognized traits of leaders are likability and eccentricity. An unlikable eccentric leader would be frightening. A likable plain leader would be boring, dull and overall meh. Put these two things together and you get charisma. That’s what a leader should aim for. Charisma meets success with some very subtle things. This is hard to pin down, but I’ll try using one example. One subtle thing that gives rise to the success of a charismatic individual is her or his experience with solving a great need that a community has. In politics, war is a great time of need. Winston Churchill was certainly charismatic, but he wasn’t seen as amounting to much until the needs arose at the beginning of World War II. He was obsessed with history, war, and politics since childhood. He would write speeches about historic events as if he were there. To become a leader, he grew in this strange obsession. He was known for his ability to quote long pieces of literature and also for his quick comebacks.
You might be wondering, “That’s all great, but what does this have to do with VentureSum?” Stay with me, I’m getting to that.
In the great (and extremely butchered) words of Winston Churchill: “We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in PoleVault; we shall fight for the best maps; we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our company, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches; we shall fight on the landing grounds; we shall fight in the field and for the streets; we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”1
What do great leaders have to do with mapping? Everything. Without effective, inspiring leadership, this company would be nowhere. It takes great leadership to inspire each of us to do this challenging work. The needs we have are great. The needs of our clients are great. That trickles down to every person here. Every step taken here is a step toward conquering a giant. Technical prowess is great, but not without the strategic understanding. I can put a bow on a piece of work that looks good, but without a vision, it is wasted. That’s what a good leader provides: a vision to benefit the whole.
In my experience working at VentureSum, I’ve seen these elements of leadership. It’s inspiring to find those who – challenged by difficult circumstances – find a way. There are lots of employees who may not be considered leaders because of their position, but they have these qualities. The vision is evident in the work the employee creates. That kind of dedication keeps the cycle going from year to year. Personally, I want to have the charisma, but I know it’s something to work on.
To test the quality of a leader, whether good or bad, the vision must be tested. If the vision benefits the whole of its parts, it’s generally good. A good leader takes into consideration the individuals who work for her or him. When a small complaint is brought up, it has always benefited me to take it seriously. I remember times where it went well when I looked into those complaints and bad when I ignored it. There is obviously a balance that must be considered with that. Don’t go making a mountain out of the molehill but be sure to summit the actual mountains. One book that really helped me to understand this is Dale Carnegie’s famous book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” He said to, “use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.”2
If there is one thing I’ve learned about leadership at VentureSum, it’s that I have a long road ahead to being one myself, but fortunately there are a lot of good influences along the way. I don’t like to consider myself a manager, because I used to think that was an ugly word. It was a word I couldn’t properly live up to, but I have been convinced otherwise by the tenacity and dedication of those around me. If they can chip away at the giant one piece at a time, then so can I.
1 Yes, I butchered this quote from Winston Churchill. “War Situation,” June 4, 1940, https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/commons/1940/jun/04/war-situation
2 Carnegie, Dale, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Simon and Schuster, 1-4391-6734-6