What Every Entrepreneur Needs To Know About Accountability And Leadership

By Ken Sundheim
16 Comments

Growing up, I could be described as very sensitive and at times even shy and introverted. I always thought that leaders were very loud, extroverted, had great senses of humor and that they had to be very arrogant.

I have come to know there is no direct correlation between arrogance or likability and leadership. There will always be those who follow the arrogant, however, they’re so unsure of themselves that these are the types of people that you do not want on your team, and whom you specifically want to play against.

There will always be those who follow the likable, but they quickly abandon their post when they see that there is no true monetary gain in sheer popularity.

If arrogance and likability are not part of the leadership equation, what is?

What Makes The Young Entrepreneur A True Leader Who Successfully Follows His Or Her Dreams

1. Expertise:

Know that the right people will only follow you when you become exceedingly effective at what you do.

People do follow the self-assured, however merited self-assurance comes with expertise. Since expertise can only be gained with hard work, dedication and passion, we can put to rest any thoughts that leaders are born and not made.

My employees can vouch for me (and probably laugh) when I say I am quite flawed, and I’m wrong as much as they are. However, when it comes to business, I have developed and honed my skills, and sometimes I feel that this is my only saving grace. Only on certain days can charm save me, but on any given day, expertise will save my you-know-what.

2. Caring:

The overly arrogant rarely win in business because those under them feel that no true loyalty or respect exists within the office. When you begin to take on staff, you can either appreciate them both professionally and personally, or somebody else will.

There is one flaw with money: it doesn’t buy employee morale, nor does it buy loyalty. Don’t get me wrong, underpaying is just as bad, but the right formula when it comes to management and leadership is proper pay and proper respect, which mainly comes in the form of listening.

I am the oldest in the office at 29, and the only male. Do not think that there is not a lot of bickering and teaming up on me. However, we all do our best to make the arguments only last about three or four minutes, then we go back to work and concentrate as a group, covering one another to achieve a common goal: a better life.

3. The Ability to Make Unpopular Decisions:

The reason the arrogant fail here is that they make unpopular decisions just to assert their dominance. The likable fail at the completely opposite end of the spectrum, refusing to make unpopular moves in order to maintain their own popularity.

The stomach to make unpopular decisions is something that I’ve had to train myself to develop. As a leader and manager of a team, you must take into account others’ opinions, but at the end of the day the final call if yours. You must do what you feel is best and rely on your expertise, which is the foundation of leadership and management.

Jack Welch, who has been a mentor on paper to me, discusses this theory in his books, describing firing GE employees. Welch thought that if you feel that it appeals to the greater good of the team, make the decision whether it be popular or loathed among the group. I agree.

4. The Ability to Make Mistakes…and Be Big Enough to Admit Them:

Finger-pointing, finger-pointing, finger-pointing. Nobody finger points all the way to the bank. People finger point all the way to middle management, but not to the bank.

If you remember one thing from this article, may it be that leaders are not born. If you remember two things from this article, may it be that real leaders hold themselves as accountable for their actions as they hold their employees for theirs. Weasels look for scapegoats.

The Importance Of Accountability In Leadership

This is one of the few times you’ll ever get very specific with a work story, but this should help the young entrepreneur fully comprehend how important it is in leadership to hold oneself accountable for their actions (plus it’s entertaining and makes me look witty):

We had a client about three months ago who retained us to find them sales employees in three different cities. One day, someone came to me and said that the third candidate of ours in a row (who was interviewing in Texas) reported that during the interview, the manager spoke badly about the company.

Every now and again we get a client who has a hiring manager who does not like their job and conveniently tells candidates so. Let’s call this culprit “Joe Middle Manager.”

The problem here is that if “Joe Middle Manager” in Texas is telling the candidates his issues with the company, nobody is going to want the job. The second problem in this scenario is that if we anger “Joe Manager,” he is going to be even more miserable to work with.

So, I tell “Bob VP” in California, who is a decently reasonable guy, about this. I ask him to take care of the problem without mentioning us because it will hurt the hiring process. Well, “Bob VP” goes and tells “Joe Manager” that I said there was a problem with his interviewing skills and that nobody would want the job if he continued doing what I said he was doing (that is, badmouthing the company).

I knew finger-pointing was coming down the pike when there was a conference call set up between Bob, Joe, me, and a fourth (also from the client company). I timed it, and for the first 14 minutes of the call, all these people did was blame one another instead of wanting to improve themselves and learn how to interview and recruit more effectively. At the 14-minute mark, I loudly asked, “Why don’t we just get this project done?” Logic sometimes brings silence.

True leaders know when they are wrong, and they say so. Only at that point, can you tell somebody else they are wrong, too. Until then, you’re simply arrogant and ignorant.

In the end, leadership and management are very complex traits and actions. Luckily, leadership is not a prerequisite to start the journey that is entrepreneurship. Leadership is just gained along the entrepreneur’s journey.

Ken Sundheim

About Ken Sundheim

At age 25, Ken Sundheim started KAS Placement Recruitment and Staffing from a studio apartment in New York. With no industry experience nor contacts, Ken learned the staffing business out of a book. KAS Placement now has two offices and is currently nominated as America's Most Promising Companies in 2012 by Forbes Magazine. Ken has previously contributed to NYTimes.com, WSJ.com, USAToday.com, Forbes and many more. You can read more at kensundheim.com.

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16 Comments

  • You really have some good points here.

    All leaders should read this article, it would make life easier both for themselves and their employees.

    • What to do……
      These points do a lot………
      Unfortunately all leaders just try to make their business larger than making others needs satisfied

  • To be successful online you must learn and listen. Do those two things consisitenly then you have something worth doing.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

    • Totally agree, I use to find myself never wanting to listen, but when I did .. doors started to open up.

  • It is always good to have these points reaffirmed by others with the same experience. Excellent points. Hard work, dedication and passion are truly the key elements for any entrepreneurial business to succeed.

  • Ken,
    I had the same belief as you about leaders being loud and arrogant. Any type of person can become a leader regardless of personality.

    We like people who are like us, not perfect. It’s best to focus on what we are good at and admit where we are not.

  • one of the qualities an Entrepreneur should also have is take calculated risks, and enjoy the whole process, we call make mistakes, but what can we learn from them going forward, like Mother Teresa’s saying: “Life is an adventure, dare it.”

  • good post, you don’t need to have all the skills and attributes of the world to be an internet entrepreneur or an entrepreneur. You need to over deliver, work hard and have ethics!

  • The ability to make unpopular decisions is what makes for an interesting leader. Unpopular decisions don’t earn you a congeniality award, but that’s not to say they’re wrong decisions.

  • The best blog post I have read so far this week. So true. True leaders know when they are wrong, and they say so. A good leader should hold accountable of all his actions and not finger point anyone else. Your points make good sense. They are especially useful for every business as much as for our everyday lives.

  • Very well said. I have worked for companies that have underpaid me and under appreciated me as well. I found they were always scheming and robbing Peter to pay Paul so to speak. They were always quick to jump on anyone who crossed them and make a jerk of themselves just to try and save face where there was no room for it. They are still going but scrapping by every month. I feel for the poor souls that still work with them.

  • The Ability to Make Mistakes…and Be Big Enough to Admit Them this is what I admire most from a leader. We are all human and we make mistakes. For me, what matters is how you accept it and how you improve your mistakes.

  • i-believe this is the second articles of yours. very well said, Ken.
    arrogant brings you no-where.

  • Management and leadership is something interesting, if you look at several successful managers out there alot of them have different approaches as to how to go about things. Just look at the way Google manages their employees vs a traditional management style. It’s definitely a complex thing, I had a class in Management about 2 years ago, and the professor never once said which managerial strategy is the best, he said that we all kind of have to find our own comfort zone.

    -Jean

  • boca raton real estate

    There’s no doubt that true leaders embrace mistake and admit it as well. They don’t blame it to others and surely they will learn from their it. I personally think that leadership is a skill that can be learned and being a leader is like doing common things in uncommon way.

  • […] effective at creating a successful, thriving business and a good corporate culture by creating a culture of accountability and by defining your vision as a leader. Getting your employees to respect that (and you) and to […]

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