Leadership – An Entrepreneur Showdown Style Debate

This is the first in a series of unique Showdown style debates blog posts, where Dan and Joe will pick a topic and “back and forth blog”, with the conversation going wherever it goes. It’s a style we’ve never seen done anywhere else, and would love to hear your thoughts below in the comments!

“Leaders Work Smarter, Not Harder”

joe cassandraDan and I recently sat in on a leadership panel discussing the traits, strengths and mistakes of leaders, so we thought it would be fun to dive into the topic on the blog. We’re also basing our discussion on a blog post we read about the 5 Myths of Leadership over at Ekaterina Walter’s Site.

When I think of a leader, I think of someone who is confident, has the ability to persuade people, and make difficult decisions. No where do I mention hard work, as leaders don’t necessarily need to work to lead. Or do they?

When I think back just to college, some of my friends who were able to sway the interests of others didn’t necessarily work very hard at all, but they knew how to persuade others to follow their lead. Ekaterina starts off Myth 1 saying that a myth of leadership is that “Leaders work smarter not harder.” I think that’s a fact.

dan franksI agree with you, Joe, about the fact that leaders don’t have to work hard. I also agree that they need to work smart. However there is one HUGE thing that some could infer based on this statement, that’s grossly incorrect to the point that I feel the need to point this out. Leaders do not have to be smart. What do I mean?

What I mean, is that the best leaders don’t have to have superb skill or detailed knowledge on the topic or area in which they’re leading. In my opinion, a good leader is one who knows how to best surround himself with the right people, and then guide them in the right direction. These skilled leaders could be leaders in any area, regardless of their individual expertise.

My prime example is Richard Branson, who certainly has to be considered one of the top business leaders of all time. Just look at all the areas he has ventured into while building over 400 different companies. He hasn’t just ventured into many vastly diverse areas of business, but SUCCEEDED in many of these areas.

What Branson might have lacked in “smarts” when it came to the specific area, he made up for with his innate ability to put the right people in place (people who WERE smart in those specific areas) while stepping back and doing what he does best: LEAD.


joe cassandraHenry Ford did the same thing surrounding himself with smart people. There’s a great story where many “intelligent” people actually took him to court because he was influencing other people with his ideas and they felt he wasn’t smart enough to do it because he wasn’t educated.

They asked him fact questions such as the date of the Revolutionary War, or who was Benedict Arnold, and he knew none of that.

So he responded saying,

“If I should really WANT to answer the foolish question you have just asked, or any of the other questions you have been asking me, let me remind you that I have a row of electric push-buttons on my desk, and by pushing the right button, I can summon to my aid men who can answer ANY question I desire to ask concerning the business to which I am devoting most of my efforts. Now, will you kindly tell me, WHY should I clutter up my mind with general knowledge, for the purpose of being able to answer questions, when I have men around me who can supply any knowledge I require?”

So perhaps we can boil down leadership as someone who has the ability to influence and surround himself with the right people who can do tasks better than himself, so everything runs more efficiently.

That story was the early 1900’s so what about in today’s economy, the new leader must have other traits such as being able to brand himself and market himself. Would someone call Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus a leader? They influence, surround themselves with the right people, does a leader need to be a role model?

dan franksI think bringing Miley or the Biebs into this is kind of silly. There is a HUGE difference between being an influencer and being a leader. Many people who are in the position to influence others have absolutely no power to lead others. No one will argue that Justin Bieber did not influence pre-pubescent boys all over the world to cut their hair in ridiculous ways. But that is not leading.

A leader is someone who not only does things that will direct the aimless (see above), but who has the ability to grab someone who is already set in their ways by the hand, show them why what they are doing is wrong, tell them why what he or she (the leader) is doing is right, and then let go of that hand and have them choose to follow on their own.

Now that the influence versus leadership argument is settled (I won), and we’ve determined that your two favorite celebrities are in fact not leaders, I’ll address the question of if leaders need to be role models. The easy answer is “No”. A role model is a person who serves as an example, or whose behavior is emulated by others.

As I’ve already stated, the best leaders are the ones who surround themselves with the smartest, brightest minds that can attain and goal, while not necessarily having to be good at anything. In fact, they could have all sorts of warts that make them personally very undesirable. However their ability to put the right pieces in place mask these faults, or at the very least make them irrelevant.

I’d be interested to hear your argument about the role model question you posed, Joe, because I’m guessing you won’t agree with my take?

Role Models

joe cassandraThere’s not a HUGE difference, as both guide the beliefs, interests, and actions of others. John C. Maxwell is famous for saying “Leadership is influence.” Your definition of a leader sounds more like marketing, “Show people why drinking Pepsi is bad, drink Coke.” You defined influence.

What Biebs and the others don’t have, and they’re not leaders, is a GOAL. If you have followers but they aren’t being directed to a specific goal, then it’s not leadership. If Bieber runs a charity and tries to get each of his fans to donate a penny, that’s a leader.

As for the role model question, make sure you cite Wikipedia for your definition of it :D, it’s a one way street because all leaders are role models, but all role models aren’t leaders.

Role models inspire others to want to be like them. As a baby, toddlers look to their parents for what should be done, how to act, and the parent, when done right, are selfless in how they teach the child right and wrong, work ethic etc. It’s the same when we admire great leaders, many wish to be like them whether you want to impact millions, as MJ Demarco quotes, or you want the confidence of a great speaker we admire such as Marcus Sheridan or Scott Dinsmore.

dan franksLots of disagreements with you here. I cannot disagree with you more when you say, “If Bieber runs a charity and tries to get each of his fans to donate a penny, that’s a leader.” Really? I’m having a hard time even finding words to respond to that with. So instead, I’ll just react like I did the time I walked in on two of my friend’s cousins kissing each other, and ignore it and move on.

But your saying, “All leaders are role models…” is also so full of wrong it’s not even funny, and I cannot give this the “cousin treatment”. Adolf Hitler was one of the world’s most successful leaders for over 10 years, but was also pure evil, directly or indirectly causing the death of over 70 million people. Leader? Absolutely. Role model? Absolutely not!

So I went a little extreme there and said the H word, but I think any discussion of leadership would not be complete without being candid with the fact that leadership is a powerful weapon that can be used for good as well as bad.

With all of our arguing of semantics, I think we can agree that there are leaders, and then there are GOOD leaders. My favorite quote that, to me, describes what makes a good leader, is from the great Jim Rohn.

“The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.”

This embodies how I try to lead, and every time I re-read it I am better for it.

joe cassandraIn my experience, when people say that they “can’t find words to respond to something,” because they think it’s a bad argument, it usually means they have no response to it, so they try and brush it off. If it wasn’t Justin Bieber, but instead I say, “If Mother Teresa tried to get each of her followers to donate a penny…” most would call that leadership. It’s a fair argument, as leaders have goals which you failed to address.

Hitler is the normal punching bag people use to talk about good and bad leadership. He was an excellent leader with a very warped sense of morality, to put lightly. Yet, in his rise to power, Germans adored him, and was very much a role model in their eyes as he took the German country out of their depression. In hind sight, no one would dare say he’s a role model, but in that time period before WW2, he was an idol to Germany.

We could go on and on about this for hours but let’s hear from you! How do you define a leader? Is it about traits, decisions, goals, who you surround yourself with, which one? We’ve named different leaders who have different characteristics, so we’re interested to hear your take!

Leave a comment below and describe who a leader is to you!

Author: Entrepreneur Showdown

The Entrepreneur Showdown Podcast is a place where Joe Cassandra and Dan Franks go head to head each week debating the hottest topics in entrepreneurship.

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