Due to the cash-strapped, frantic nature of launching a product
into the world, most startup founders are
forced to be a jack-of-all-trades, master of some.
Typically a successful technology startup will have one founder who is business oriented and another who is tech oriented. The business guy takes the role of CEO and the tech guy builds the product serving as chief technology officer, vice president of engineering or the like.
Fast-forward a few years and after a capital raising or two, the business is humming along. By this point the company has proven its product-market fit, is generating revenue and things are scaling more or less as expected.
But the team that got the company to where it is now may not be the team that can (or wants to) take it to the next level.
With all founders, there are three types of leaders : artists, entrepreneurs and managers. While most founders can play any of these roles for a while (and pivot between them), there comes a time when they need to question themselves to be sure they're the best person for a particular role and to be sure they are being true to their passions, needs and strengths.
Artists like to create; specifically they like to create in the context of design. They see the world through a visual lens and typically focus on crafting beautiful and then functional products above all else. Steve Jobs was an artist at Apple and Pixar. Another artist is Sir James Dyson, the inventor of the cyclonic bagless vacuum cleaner.
Entrepreneurs love bringing new ideas to life. They build strong teams and raise money, harnessing a huge vision. But they don't necessarily need to be the creator of a product or the person who had the idea. They can sell ice to Alaskans, hire superstars from strong competing companies and motivate everyone when times are tough. Marc Benioff from Salesforce exemplifies a typical entrepreneur.
Managers are leaders of people and know how to motivate others. They figure out workers' core desires and help them be better today than they were yesterday. On a DIsC personality profile they score a high "I" and are typically found speaking at large events, being interviewed by the media and standing before their leadership team rallying staff to not just hit but smash quotas or goals. Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch personifies the manager.
So this leads to the fundamental question of this post: Which of these three types are you? Answering this question will help you find your purpose. This is at the core of who you are as a person. If, for example, you're an artist who is currently playing the role of a manager, then it might be time to think about a change.
For example, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google's founders, are excellent (technical) artists who built the initial technology and systems that power their company. When they achieved a product-market fit and started realizing strong revenue, they knew they needed to bring on a manager with previous experience to help scale the business into the multibillion dollar behemoth it is today.
Eric Schmidt joined as CEO in 2001 with a strong management and systems background from his previous executive roles at Sun and Novell. He knew how to scale a business to support Google's massive growth.
Now, could Page and Brin have figured out how to scale the business themselves? Probably. They're both incredibly smart guys, but they're passionate technologists first and manager-entrepreneurs second. They knew what they liked and brought in Schmidt to fill in the gaps in their skills and passions.
Mark Zuckerberg (artist) brought in Sheryl Sandberg (manager) as chief operating officer at Facebook. Ev Williams, Jack Dorsey and Biz Stone (all artist-entrepreneurs) brought in Dick Costello to be chief operating officer, a manager type who is now CEO at Twitter. And Reid Hoffman (entrepreneur) brought in Jeff Weiner (a manager) to LinkedIn.
These amazing entrepreneurs knew their purpose and built solid teams around them.
Related: 4 Critical Traits of Great Leaders
It should be fairly easy for you to answer two questions: First, which role are you currently playing? Second, which role do you want to play? If you want to serve as the entrepreneur and you're currently the entrepreneur at your startup, then great.
If you're not playing the role you want to be, then think about the resources available to you (your board, your co-founders and your network) and how they could help you shift roles.
Could you talk to your board and suggest a change in role? Do you know someone in your network who could help you hire a strong manager so you can get back to being the entrepreneur? Or do you know a strong artist who can partner with you to take your entrepreneurial vision to the next level?
It's not always possible to play the role you're most passionate about at your startup. Nonetheless it's not as hard as it might seem to get into that role if you're open, honest and willing to share how you're feeling and thinking with your team of trusted advisors.
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