One of the chief responsibilities of any leader is the requirement that they go first, especially in entrepreneurship and startups. Sure, it sounds simple enough since there was no one on planet earth that may have had the idea so someone had to go first to get things started, but it get’s infinitely more complex and difficult once things are, in fact, moving.
In an established and growing startup and enterprise the leader must still be willing, at all times, to go first. Sometimes it’s the only thing that they can do once they fill in the appropriate seats on the proverbial bus and things are rolling smoothly forward. Sometimes that leader, though, must do something dramatic while still on the bus or perhaps even jumping off of it for a moment (or permanently) so that things can continue to pace well and in the right direction.
Going first isn’t easy. It’s very difficult to do. It becomes more difficult because we’re engineered as humans to desire a more sedentary life. Find a rhythm and pattern that works, optimize, and then maximize throughput and output until it’s all gone. Even the most entrepreneurial among us desire to find that rhythm that sticks so that life can be, for lack of better words, less chaotic.
But standing still is not why you are and became a leader in the first place. You became a leader because you went first and you will stay a leader because you continue to go first, however difficult those first steps might be.
The world doesn’t need more followers – there’s enough to go around. That’s not a bad thing as we are all followers of something – but in certain contexts, in certain climates and atmospheres and circumstances, you need to be the leader that people desperately need you to be, even if they don’t know it yet or haven’t fully realized they need to be jarred by something jumping from a moving vehicle.
Real leaders go first. They count the cost as best as they can and then the take the first step forward, place a stake in the ground, and declare direction before anyone else. They risk ridicule, scorn, or even shame because the reality is that it’s quite possible that no one will actually follow them.
That’s ok. Do it anyway. Maybe they (whomever “they” are) weren’t the right people to follow to begin with. What if they do follow? Then the real work begins.