Leadership is Emotional, Not Rational

The great Eric Barker does a fantastic job of illuminating the difference between management and leadership in his post, “Qualities Of A Leader”:

Eric quotes theorist John Kotter on the fundamental distinction:

“Management controls people by pushing them in the right direction; leadership motivates them by satisfying basic human needs.”

For entrepreneurs, the implications aren’t always comfortable.

Us Silicon Valley types don’t like to talk about emotions in the workplace.  Technical founders especially prefer to focus on the rational and tangible–company strategy, product decisions, A/B testing.  The only way most founders refer to the softer side of leadership is in the de rigeur focus on building a great culture.

Yet the nature of leadership is such that it is an emotional job, not a rational one.  I liken it to serving as an emotional powerplant; the founder needs to provide the emotional electricity to light up the company.

For some founders, this doesn’t come naturally.  Maybe they’re introverted.  Maybe they don’t express a lot of emotions.  Tough.

If we’re willing to tell non-technical founders to spend the effort to learn how software engineering works, it’s not asking too much to have technical founders make the effort to connect with their team on an emotional level.

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