The following is guest post by William McCoy, School District Superintendent and Tech Start-Up Founder. I think you’ll find that he is raising an interesting and important topic around our multiple roles as leaders. You may be a leader in two or more different companies, like William, or you may need to shift from being a workplace leader to a family leader at the end of your day. It can be tough to juggle dual roles, and is increasingly common. Take it away William!
I am a big fan of books on Leadership. Good To Great, by Jim Collins, is a staple on my bookshelf that I have revisited again and again. The Wizard and the Warrior: Leading with Passion and Power by Bolman and Deal provided me profound insight as a new leader. Most recently, The Multiplier Effect by Wiseman, Allen and Foster has captured my attention and imagination.
What you need to know about me is that I live a dual life that requires very different leadership styles, and daily I force this internal paradigm shift. I am a School District Superintendent in rural Northern California, and I am also the Founder of three different tech start-up projects (Zippy Campus, All Clear and Talking Paints). Those of you in either job probably realize the inherently different roles required to be effective at either of these positions.
As a School District Superintendent, my job requires diplomacy, soft skills, fiscal acumen, and I report to a Board of Trustees. I have about three hundred employees and 2100 students that depend upon me to provide resources, support and safety. On a daily basis I may interact with staff, public officials, union representatives and, if I am lucky, students. The position is replete with rules, regulations, contracts, plans, and policies. But it is also incredibly rewarding, and the best possible service that I can imagine myself providing to our community. Educating children is in my soul, and helping more students has always been my goal.
As Founder of a Start-up, it’s just me. (Especially when chasing Angel Investors, Venture Capitalists, potential Partners, and ultimately customers). From what I have found, there are no rules, regulations, or policies to follow when starting a business. There isn’t a blueprint for success, and if there is, some rich son of a gun is hiding it. It is a chaotic, digital frenzy where the only way to jump in is to simply begin.
So different are these worlds that it often takes my conscious effort to shift between the two. Of course, I try to keep my start-up business away from my public service as a Superintendent. Even though the original concept for the start-up was hatched by simply trying to help my Principals break free from their desks more often. I created apps that could help them collect, compile, and analyze data more quickly and efficiently, thus allowing them more time to do be instructional leaders in classrooms. When I decided to try and make a go of it as a business, I had to stop pushing the idea with my own Principals because I didn’t want there to be the perception of using their work for my own gain. I don’t even really market to my colleagues in the county because I don’t want to strain our working relationship.
So I leave my job as Superintendent behind each night and go home to pursue these other ventures. Ventures where I have to be bold, creative, LinkedIn, Tweeted, and dual platform friendly. I am the designer, builder, creator, marketer, promoter, funder, boss and workhorse. If it doesn’t work, I have to fix it and if I don’t fix it, it simply doesn’t work. Game over.
So trying to rectify these two worlds into a single paradigm is fantastically impossible at this point. As a Superintendent, “getting the right people on the bus” makes sense. As a Founder, the bus has one occupant and he is doing his best Fred Flintstone impression trying to get the stone wheels to turn and go somewhere.
I once heard a speaker say something to the effect of “great leaders inspire people to follow them. If you don’t have followers, you are just a guy on a walk.” As a Superintendent, I am fortunate to have co-workers and colleagues that believe in providing an outstanding education for all students as our ultimate goal. We pursue that together each day. As a Founder, I am a guy on a walk until I knock on the right door, make the right connection, convince the right person, or sell the right organ to get these projects funded. It is lonely, frustrating, invigorating, freeing, and scary all at once.
So if you know of a book that I can add to my bookshelf that can help me navigate these very different waters, I would love to hear about it. I have searched for random titles hoping to find a hit, but I guess the following titles haven’t been written yet:
- Diplomat by Day and Strategic Creative When You Should Be Sleeping
- Bite Your Tongue and Kick Some Butt
So maybe what needs to be done is an analysis of the new types of leadership that are developing in this era of entrepreneurship. Maybe we need to take a look at the dual roles and inherent conflicts created by everyone trying to manage more and more interests at the speed of Facebook posts. It would be fascinating to learn about the dual roles many of us play in the world. Maybe I could write it…
Okay that’s just a bad idea. Another task, another leadership requirement, and another “leadershift” is not really what I am looking for in this adventure. Two roles, three start-ups, and a district full of students is plenty for now.
Kevin Kruse is a NY Times bestselling author and serial entrepreneur. For insider tips and exclusive content, join his newsletter at kevinkruse.com.