Spider-Man, Silicon Valley, & Trail Team 10

My podcast this week is all about Vinciple Leadership, The Curious Connection Between Integrity, Vulnerability, Trust, and Results. It’s actually the core of a keynote that I recently delivered to a group of business leaders in Cincinnati.

One day after I recorded the podcast episode, I went to see Spider-Man: Homecoming. If you listen to the podcast episode you’ll know that I have long been a Superhero fan.

And, I was VERY excited to see the latest incarnation of the web crawler.

I think the reason I was looking forward to this movie and the reason why I have always liked Spider-Man is because he is often more human than superhuman. He navigates life’s challenges like the rest of us, but with the added responsibility of crime fighting.

You may recall that Peter Parker’s father, in the Sam Raimi version of Spider-Man, advised Peter with this famous admonition, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

While this thought is not original to Spider-Man and Marvel Comics, it’s something I have been thinking about a lot lately after reviewing my talk on Vinciple Leadership, watching the latest Spider-Man movie, and reflecting on recent headlines coming out of Silicon Valley.

As Founders we often lead from “personal power.” It comes from our vision for the future, our enthusiasm for the mission, our personality, and the trust vested in us to bring the team together in a fun, exciting, and progress-filled way.

As a Founder & CEO, the team grows. Along with that growth, whether you like it or not, comes “positional power.” That power comes from many different sources: investors, senior leaders, key customers, and even our team members. People start seeing you through a different lens.

It’s a subtle point, but positional power is very different than personal power. One of the big differences are the expectations of others. Others expect the CEO part of “Founder & CEO” to look out for the best interests of the company, the customers, and all team members with good character and growing competence.

It’s an important point because most Founders I speak to never started their company to become a CEO. But, if you accept the challenges of continued growth and responsibility, “positional power” grows even if you don’t notice it. And, many of you tell me that it sneaks up on you.

That’s why I think it’s important to stop and remind yourself that with great positional power, comes greater responsibility. Sometimes we forget that and we need reminders. Otherwise a widening array of stakeholders may remind us of that in more uncomfortable forums when we stray.

What can you do to help become more aware of how your “positional power” is being wielded? May I recommend something a member of Trail Team 10 did?

He gave permission to a few key team members to sit with him on a semi-frequent basis to candidly share feedback about his performance. He says it helps keep him accountable and has worked wonders for him.

Founding CEOs are NOT superheroes. We all need people to help hold us accountable, just like Peter Parker needed Tony Stark and his Uncle to help him.

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