"For us to transform as a society, we have to allow ourselves to be transformed as individuals. And for us to be transformed as individuals, we have to allow for the incompleteness of any of our truths and a real forgiveness for the complexity of human beings and what we’re trapped inside of."
angel Kyodo williams, On Being

Welcome to Week 3—all about leadership, and it is complex indeed. This is the third week in the first section of the miniMBA: Discovery. If you missed Week 1 - The Review and Week 2 - Culture, you can catch up on those here


Once we understand the core of our business—our company culture—then we begin with ourselves, the Creative Entrepreneur. Our culture reflects how we show up within our business. Leadership is about how we relate to our business and those that make our business possible—employees, contractors, vendors, customers, and our audience.

You are not your business; understanding your relationship to it, establishing healthy boundaries, and facing your own areas of growth are necessary to experience the creative freedom and financial security you sought when you started. As poet, David Whyte said on On Being, "...that’s the definition of a corporation. It’s from “corpus,” Latin, meaning “a body.” It’s a group of people trying to do something you cannot do if you try to do it by yourself. That’s the only definition. That’s the simplest, core, radical simplicity at the center of every organization."

Most creative entrepreneurs are accidental leaders, meaning they have stepped into a role unaware of what it encompasses and how they will have to grow to meet the role's needs.

We often come from backgrounds where we haven’t been a leader, and leadership is a new skill set and character development we must embrace. We can often judge leadership when we’re starved for good examples, and we can understandably want to believe that people should be able to manage themselves. We can seek perfection in leaders and feel disappointment when it's not met, but every interaction is an opportunity for growth. We might resist our growth by claiming that our entrepreneurial endeavor will be democratic and everyone will have equal say. But ultimately, we are all seeking stable and clear leadership.

Leadership isn’t just about managing people; it’s about how we manage ourselves daily. It’s who we choose to be not only when things are going well but, most importantly, when we’re faced with perceived challenges and obstacles. Entrepreneurship is a marathon, and our personal growth will allow us to stay present in the day-to-day as we work towards building our vision. 

Being good at managing ourselves and others begins with understanding our leadership philosophy. Just like company cultures, there’s a nuance to each creative entrepreneur's leadership style. Leadership is not one size fits all; it does not mean the same things to everyone. We often don’t take the time to define it for ourselves or others, creating unmet expectations, mixed signals, and generally feeling dissatisfaction and frustration from both entrepreneurs and employees. Knowing how you lead is the first step in ensuring the expectations you have for yourself and others will have the potential to be met.

One of my favorite books about leadership is Hanging the Mirror, The Discipline of Reflective Leadership. It is about, just as the title says, reflecting on yourself and how you impact your business and the people within it. As Rev angel Kyodo williams says, humans are complex and incomplete. We all come to leadership incomplete with our own complexities. It is our work to sift through that and to work towards wholeness, better known as integrity. Like culture, leadership is a dynamic process of growth, not a destination. It is not given by a title but earned by how you are experienced by others. Taking the time and defining our philosophy gives us a path forward for our own development as a leader as much as it gives our employees an understanding of how we might be experienced—as Brene Brown says, Clarity is Kind. We will need this path when faced with navigating our vision (more on that next week) and cultivating the endurance for the marathon that is entrepreneurship.


On top of that philosophy, most Creative Entrepreneurs don’t have a formally defined job description. Yes, you’re the founder, but you also have specific accountabilities within your business, even if you’re a solopreneur. We like to romanticize the idea of wearing all the hats. And though there is some truth to this, it can also become an excuse not to embrace the work of a leader. We can become intoxicated by what’s urgent instead of prioritizing what’s important.

Important work as a leader comes in the form of staying inspired so you have the endurance to grow your business; setting and working towards a vision to pull yourself out of the day-to-day; nurturing that culture you set in Week 2 so that your values don’t just become something you hang on your wall; navigating the continuous cycle of change that is the ever-evolving nature of our present economy and economic models; and finally, developing your leaders—even when we are in a place to hire individuals to help us step out of the role of wearing all of the hats, we are still responsible for their development as leaders within our company. A mistake we make is to believe that because someone comes with previous management experience, they are fully developed in the nuances of your organization.

These are a leader's priorities before they engage in the day-to-day. Here are the priorities of a Founder's Job Description written in order of importance:

  1. Staying inspired
  2. Creating the Vision
  3. Nurturing the Culture
  4. Navigating Change - Personally & Professionally
  5. Developing your Leaders
  6. Day-to-day responsibilities - These can be anything from meeting with your bookkeeper to creating a product roadmap to setting a content calendar. 

The key is to prioritize the big picture before you get consumed by the day-to-day accountabilities. This can seem like a lot, especially if you went into business without realizing the responsibilities that come with leadership. Shifting behavior, and learning to manage oneself, are part of the entrepreneurial journey. I often recommend starting with Daniel Goleman's classic from the Harvard Business Review, What Makes a Leader. Goleman's research on Emotional Intelligence gives 5 areas of focus for growth: Self-awareness, Self-regulation, Motivation, Empathy, and Social Skills. He argues that building your character in those areas is more impactful for growth than just focusing on vision, intelligence, and strategy. 

If you’ve never taken the time to define your leadership philosophy or set your job description, here’s what you can do.



  • Who are the leaders you admire - who and why? What qualities do they possess? What actions do they take? Is there something you see in yourself as the same? 
  • How do you want to be experienced within your business? Does that experience directly connect to the values outlined for the company?
  • Fifty (or you choose) years from now, how will you be described as the leader within the business? 
  • What are your expectations for other leaders in your business?


Head to the "Do" Section of the Resources page and download the Founder Job Description Template to build your role.


Listen to Ellie Lum on the podcast speak about the difference between Leadership & Management and why both are important. 


HBR What Makes a Leader and a counterpoint to emotional intelligence

Google Psychological Safety 

Doughnut Economics

Each Person Has Invented Himself // Inventing David Geffen

Angel kyodo Williams On Being (unedited)

Emergence Magazine Seeds of Radical Renewal 12-Part Leadership Course


Shawn Achor TED The Happy Secret to Better Work

Brene Brown The Call to Courage

Good luck! We'll see you here next Wednesday for Week 4: Vision & Goals. If you have a colleague who should join us, they can sign up here


This November, we'll read Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds by Adrienne Marie Brown. This free event will be hosted on Tuesday, November 29th at 7PMEST via Zoom. Please email me to register. 

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