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Monday, November 28, 2011

Democracy in a Startup? Only if You Want Super Committee Type Results

I spent more than 14 years of my life working for the Federal Government on a Military Base.  During that time, the institution had countless changes in organizational structure and frequent interactions with political figures and military officers.  I have watched politics over the years and continue am always amazed by the partisan divide and lack of ability to come together on key issues.  This seems to have gotten worse recently with Congress and the “Super Committee” failing to come up with plan for deficit reduction.  The whole situation is just one example of why running a business on pure democratic principles is not a great idea.

The military exists in a political world and the USA military has as a major responsibility to protect this democratic system.  Yet the can you imagine running any war where a >50% vote is necessary before taking action.  That would be disastrous for the troops and the outcome would suffer for sure. In WWII, some generals directed their campaigns in a manner at odds with the leadership above them. Abraham Lincoln experienced this in the Civil War and had to replace multiple generals before putting Grant in charge.  Successful or not, the generals were replaced.  None of the generals ran their campaign by taking a vote!

Working with your team requires that obtaining feedback on ideas and making the team feel part of the business and its success.  It is essential to get your team involved and enthusiastic about the business.  Doing so will ensure the best ideas are put into place and programs run in the most optimal manner, but what if you decided to put every action to a vote?  It might work out ok, but more often than not, you will get bogged down and gave poor results, like Congress and the Super Committee.

Leadership takes many forms.  Generals want their troops to follow, but they may not care about popularity. Yet, some troops will do anything to support the military command because some officers are more than a person barking out orders.  Working with a team can be similar.  Work alongside them; earn their respect.  Having the team want to support you as their leader and the company is important.  Keep in mind, it is not possible to put everything to a vote and end up with important decisions. The reason being that there are many ways to solve a problem and not everyone on the team would solve it the same way.

As the CEO of the company, investors expect you to be a leader and take charge.  You are the person that the management team sees as the final decision maker.  This means you consider all information and get the team involved.  When it comes to the final decision, the CEO is the one that takes the blame if it goes wrong.  The CEO may get the credit when things go well, but the CEO can share this with the team as well.  Why not, sharing the credit helps to build and enhance the team.

I can go on about why Congress has difficulty in making decisions and getting results.  That is not the purpose of this article.  The real purpose is to make sure you know who is really in charge and that you remain prepared to make decisions when difficult ones come around.  They will come around, and YOU MUST DECIDE.  That is your job.