Born to Star – Latest Secrets to Startup Success: Selecting the Right Execution Master (Part 6)

Born to Star - Latest Secrets to Startup Success: Selecting the Right Execution Master (Part 6)

Welcome to our series of eight excerpts from the Born to Star – Latest Secrets to Startup Success eBook and guide. This material applies to early and late startups as well as businesses in other stages.

At any time during this series, you can get the entire guide, complete with bonus materials and proprietary Scorecard© worksheets, not included in these excerpts. The Scorecards are designed to reveal the success or failure factors for your vision or company and give you actionable solutions. 

We add a new excerpt weekly and you'll find them added to this blog in order with an easy jump link to each excerpt. 


Essential elements are drawn together by mutual attraction. When they hit critical mass, boom! A star is born.  A star expands as additional essential elements are drawn in, glowing brightly and nurturing life.

Your innovative business can grow in the same explosive way.  This eBook holds the secrets for igniting that kind of growth.  In it, we will demonstrate that as a Vision Master, you need the magic of a specific, essential element to maximize your chances of success. It's all about making your startup idea the star it's meant to be.

Why do we assert this insight and this eBook so valuable, so imperative?  Two answers:  One, the odds of successfully raising funds goes up dramatically when you implement this insight.  Two, the odds of success for your business itself increases substantially. We think these are compelling arguments for you to explore this insight and adopt it. This is your opportunity to learn from the visionaries pioneering the way to a lifetime achievement. 

The alternative? Slow growth or no growth, and then obscurity.  Not at all what you envisioned.

This is a 8 part series of excerpts from our Born to Star eBook guide and workbook. The eBook contains the full version, including proprietary Scorecards®, actionable takeaways, conclusions and wrap up comments for review.  

Part 1 – Prolog: The Failure of a Brilliant Visionary (below)

Part 2 -The Right Team - Welcome to the Innovators. Click here to read the first of two installments on this section of the eBook.

Part 3 - The Right Team - Evidence from ResearchClick here to read the second of two installments on this section of the eBook.

Part 4 - The Vision Master & the Execution Master - The Challenge of Self-Awareness. Click here to read the first of two installments on this section of the eBook.

Part 5 - The Disruptive Leader (Vision Master) - Do You Have What it Takes? Click here to read the second of two installments in this section of the eBook.

Part 6 - Selecting the Right Execution Master – The Key to the Vision Master’s Success. Click here to read this installment of the eBook.

Part 1 – Prolog: The Failure of a Brilliant Visionary

Secrets to Startup Success Part 1Before we explore the insight at the center of this eBook, let's begin with a question. You're a visionary; so, what's the worst that can happen?

To answer that question, we'll look at one of the best examples of a great Vision Master, Nikola Tesla, who unlike you did not have the benefit of this eBook.

I extracted the biographical material on Tesla found in this Prolog from Tesla: Man Out of Time by Margaret Cheney, published in 2001 by Simon and Schuster.

Until recently, the name of Serbian-born inventor Nikola Tesla had been lost in obscurity. Thanks to another innovator in our own time, his name is now in the public eye.

I remember Tesla because my high-school science project involved building a real Tesla coil that shot lightning bolts across the room.  I'd like to honor Tesla by retelling his story for inspiration and as a warning.

Tesla faced an appalling series of challenges during his lifetime, made worse by unjustified mistreatment by those in power around him. Listen to this story about Tesla, his mix of extraordinary creativity, generosity, and naiveté, so that he is remembered for the visionary he was and so YOU will not suffer a similar fate.

Some technical background:  Alternating current (AC) is the kind of electrical power provided by all household electrical sockets.  On a metropolitan level, AC has real advantages over direct current (DC), the kind of power supplied by batteries.  With AC, the level of voltage is quickly transformed, and as a result, AC power can be transmitted over hundreds of miles. DC power, in contrast, is difficult to distribute usefully over more than a few miles.

Nikola Tesla

This was common knowledge in the late 1800's when Tesla began his journey of invention. However, DC was still the most common type of electrical power used at the time. The reason was that nobody had yet created motors that ran off of AC power and worked well. AC motors in use at the time used mechanical current-switchers in their mechanism and frequently failed due to heat and vibration.

Scientists had been trying for years to counteract these problems but major financiers, who had invested in DC power systems, weren't interested. DC power was under their control, and they viewed anything challenging the DC status quo as a competitive threat.

Nikola Tesla, twenty-eight years of age, had recently quit his studies at the Austrian Polytechnic School in Graz because of his limited financial means. While studying there, he had taken a particular interest in AC electrical technology.  Apparently, the flaws in their design haunted him during these years.

As the story goes, one day in 1882, while talking to a friend in a Belgrade park, Tesla abruptly froze in mid-step. A new concept for AC motors had suddenly gelled in his mind. His friend tried to help him sit down, but Tesla refused until he had traced in the sand a drawing of a new AC motor design.  Eureka!

Some six years passed as Tesla improved his novel idea. Tesla then presented the idea again, before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. More than simply a new motor, it was a revolutionary new concept for handling AC power, a "new scientific principle of stunning simplicity and utility", which was to sweep the world.

Those six years, however, were challenging for Tesla.

Thomas Edison

"Tesla came over from Graz and went to work for Thomas Edison. Edison couldn't stand Tesla for several reasons. One was that Tesla showed up for work every day in formal dress - morning coat, spats, top hat, and gloves - and this just wasn't the American Way at the time. Edison also hated Tesla because Tesla invented so many things while wearing these clothes." (From Laurie Anderson's "Dance of Electricity.")

Thomas Alva Edison did not fully grasp the science underlying the light bulb he had invented.  This is evident because he thought that light bulbs could operate only with DC power, not AC. He did, however, have a firm grasp of hardball business tactics.

Though the carbon filaments would work powered by AC or DC current equally well, Edison believed his electric lights would only work with DC current. So, when Tesla first landed in America in 1884, he discovered Edison had a large vested interest in the DC power plants which Edison had designed and which J.P. Morgan had financed.

That's why, when Tesla sought Edison's backing for his new AC devices, Edison showed no interest.

Surprisingly, though, Edison offered him a contract on contingency, specifically promising Tesla fifty thousand dollars if Tesla would redesign Edison's DC generators which were prone to frequent breakdown. Tesla worked for almost a year redesigning the Edison generators.  The new designs were a major improvement over Edison's originals. Upon completing the job Tesla asked Edison for the $50,000 promised.

Again, as the story goes, "Tesla," Edison replied, "you don't understand our American humor" and Tesla was never paid.

Tesla was without a job or contract.  For a time, he worked as a laborer on a street gang in New York.  Unstoppable, Tesla figured out a way to apply for patents for his "polyphase" AC motors and other AC equipment. Word of the revolutionary patents seeped into the academic world, and with fortune smiling, the inventor was asked to lecture before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. Attendees lauded Tesla's presentation and ideas as far-reaching. Word spread rapidly among the community of electrical engineers.

Eventually, business magnate George Westinghouse became aware of the Tesla AC innovations.  This was the beginning of Tesla's rise, however fleeting.

Born to Star 2017The remaining part of the compelling story about Tesla's failure continues on Page 8 of the Born to Star eBook and guide. The conclusion documents the truth about how Tesla's unfortunate (and unfair) future unfolded. This is an example of the failure of this brilliant visionary. It serves as a stepping off point to discover the latest innovative solutions centered around today's visionaries and investors. 

Next - Part 2: The Right Team - Welcome to the Innovators

*Click on book image to go to download page. This eBook is offered in its entirety, including bonus materials and Leadership Scorecards©, at no charge for a limited time, exclusively to Intelliversity readers.

Part 2 - The Right Team

Born to Star - Latest Secrets to Startup SuccessWelcome to the Innovators

Tesla's story is a truly a sad one, perhaps mostly because it didn't have to turn out the way that it did. Unlike Tesla during his lifetime, you can avoid the alternative.

At several key points in his business career, Tesla could have taken different actions that likely would have resulted in a sunnier personal fate while still bringing his vast contributions to the world. I'm going to call these key points "Tesla Moments" in hopes that you'll remember Tesla when you face such moments in your entrepreneurial life.

This book is offered to you as a guide to help you win – for yourself, your family, your investors and other stakeholders – by successfully navigating the Tesla Moments as they arise.

And trust me on this, investors looking seriously at your business want to know you take guidance about their interests seriously. So read on, knowing this guidance is the key both to explosive growth AND attracting investment at the beginning stages of your business.

Why team is so vital to your success

I'm sure you're aware that at some level that to build any enterprise successfully requires two equally critical mindsets:

  • Long term, optimistic, big picture, inspirational, strategic
  • Short term, cover-your-ass, detailed, get-it-done, tactical

Your first Tesla Moment is to become fully conscious of this distinction. Let me help you flesh it out by quoting from some well-known leadership experts.

In On Becoming a Leader, legendary organization consultant Warren Bennis composed a complete list of the differences between "manager" and "leader":

  • The manager administers; the leader innovates.
  • The manager is a copy; the leader is an original.
  • The manager maintains; the leader develops.
  • The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people.
  • The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.
  • The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective.
  • The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.
  • The manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line; the leader's eye is on the horizon.
  • The manager imitates; the leader originates.
  • The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.
  • The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his or her own person.
  • The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.

Clearly, this list is somewhat old fashioned. Peter Drucker, another legendary organization consultant, called for all managers to act more like leaders, inspiring their followers with purpose, thus blurring the boundaries between manager and leader.

What Drucker didn't do was call for leaders to act as managers. Leaders (visionaries, innovators, makers, inventors, founders) are not now and never have been good managers.

Leading and managing AT THE SAME TIME is like playing the guitar and doing math problems at the same time. It's very hard for the mind to do, even an extraordinary mind.

More important, most of us, as it turns out, are strong in one area and weaker in the other. Even Einstein admitted his less than stellar performance as a musician though he enjoyed it.

Let me introduce two terms I'll use again and again throughout this book to clearly distinguish and honor these two skill-sets (traditionally known as leaders and managers): "Vision Master" and "Execution Master." I'll develop these terms further as we discuss the elements of winning business teams. But for now in a general sense, think:

  • The Vision Master is the generator of ideas, and the Execution Master is the implementer of those ideas;
  • The Vision Master is the strategist, and the Execution Master is the tactician;
  • The Vision Master asks "why?" and the Execution Master asks "how?"

This is not to say that a Vision Master has no implementation skills or ability to think tactically, nor does it mean that Execution Masters have no ability to generate new ideas or utilize strategic thinking. In general, though, we are each best suited to primarily play one role or the other within a business team at any one time. 
Even if you can play both roles well, it's almost impossible to play both roles well AT THE SAME TIME. It's all about the way you think all day long. It is your dominant thinking style.

  • When you are Vision Master, you wake up in the morning and start thinking about what your company will be like as the future unfolds, and what new ideas you can add to make the future even brighter. You invent an improvement.
  • When you are an Execution Master, when you wake up in the morning you start thinking about what can go wrong. You stop a disaster. 

Only the greatest of chess masters can effectively think both ways at the same time. And each kind of So Your'e Thinking About a Startup Businessthinking requires full-time attention. 
I've written this book primarily for you, the Vision Master: the intrepid individualism that embodies the innate (and rare) ability to create something of value from nothing. It is to you, Vision Master, that the world owes perhaps every significant advancement in history. 
As you will read, the most successful Vision Masters have fulfilling and productive relationships with Execution Masters – those people who excel at taking your breakthrough ideas and grounding them in the world of business models and relationships – i.e. day-to-day company building.

Next - Part 3: The Right Team - Evidence from Research

*Click on book image to go to download page. This eBook is offered in its entirety, including bonus materials and Leadership Scorecards©, at no charge for a limited time, exclusively to Intelliversity readers.

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Part 3 - The Right Team (continued)

The right teamEvidence from Research

Many of you are scientists and technologists. You work in the world of theory, testing and proof. Like me, you're interested in new ideas like the notion that the most successful businesses have both a Vision Master and an Execution Master. But you want to see the proof. After all, theory without proof is just conjecture; and you're not going to change your thinking or the structure of your business based on conjecture.

So, the billion-dollar question that this book is written to answer is:

Can we prove the theory that you, the Vision Master, need an Execution Master to maximize your chances to succeed in business or with your startup?

Can we offer proof that having an Execution Master will substantially reduce your chances of ending up like Nikola Tesla?

In their book The Power of 2: How to Make the Most of Your Partnerships at Work and in Life, Rodd Wagner and Gale Muller undertook five years of research on collaborative partnerships.

During that time the authors randomly surveyed thousands of people, asking them to identify a successful and an unsuccessful partnership (outside of family relationships) that they had engaged in, and what was responsible for success and failure. From thousands of answers, twenty-three were found most predictive of success or failure and of these, these were determined to be most decisive:

  • We complement each other's strengths.
  • He or she does some things much better than I do, and I do some things much better than he or she does.
  • We need each other to get the job done.

Responses scored from 1 to 5 based on whether a respondent most agreed or least agreed with the statement. Curiously, only respondents who answered "5" to all three statements also reported the highest partnership success levels. In other words, even one "4" indicated some reservations about the value of complementary strengths in a partnership. As the author's concluded:

"Answering 4 to any of the statements, while right in an absolute sense, also indicates a full point of reservation -- something substantial that is keeping you from giving the most positive response. In practice, this holding back is costly. It reveals that you and your counterpart are not quite a perfect fit or don't need each other to get the job done. In exceptional two-person teams, there is no such reservation. These statements reflect not just interdependence, but a mutual recognition of it."

From my research, I can report that Wagner and Muller's findings imply three fundamental components to the most successful partnerships:

  1. Self-Awareness – knowing what you do well and what you don't do well (or what you most like doing and don't like doing)
  2. Situational Awareness – knowing that one needs the skills and qualities of the other to succeed
  3. Trust – acceptance that a deep level of trust between the dependents within a partnership is critical to success

The authors concluded that:

"Sometimes what's required is the difference in how the two of you think or act. One consistently sees the potential; the other routinely sees the risks. One generates ideas; the other puts them into production. One is good with technology; the other is good with people."

Think about each of these statements:

  • One consistently sees the potential; the other routinely sees the risks – that's Warren Buffet and his Execution Master partner, Charlie Munger, at work assessing companies.
  • One generates ideas; the other puts them into production – that's Elon Musk and leading Execution Master at Space X, Gwynne Shotwell.
  • One is good with technology; the other is good with people – that was Steve Jobs and Tim Cook reinventing Apple and taking it to market dominance.

I'll detail these and other successful partnerships between Vision Masters and Execution Masters throughout this book. But are you beginning to see the pattern here? We haven't yet proven our theorem, but we are gathering substantial evidence.

Let's see what some of the world's most successful investors have to say about this.

Evidence from investors

I'd like you to stop reading for ten seconds and answer this question – whether you are knowledgeable about the world of investment or not. Don't ponder this, just see what name, if any, pops into your head first as you answer this question:

Who is the most successful investor in the world?

Did a name come to mind? Most people who don't operate within the realm of high finance (and many who do) tend to think of the same person: Warren Buffet. Buffet is legendary, iconic and enormously successful. He is the "rock star" of investing, whose advice is sought by Presidents, International Banks and Fortune 500 CEO's.

I'm fairly sure that the name Charlie Munger did not come to mind.

Charlie is not well-known outside the world of finance and investing.

He is anything but a "rock star" in the eyes of the world. But he is one-half of the business partnership (Warren Buffet being the other half) that has made Berkshire Hathaway the most successful investment funds in history. Here are the differences between these two complementary partners:

Buffet thrives on new ideas and enthusiasm for entrepreneurs. Munger prefers the world of analytics. Buffet wants to explore the possibilities. Munger wants to know if it will work as a business. For that reason, Buffet often refers to Munger as "the abominable no-man." (He says "no" a lot.) But the partnership works for that very reason: it's made up of two exceptionally talented people practicing complementary thinking styles. Buffet and Munger apply their complementary thinking styles whenever they contemplate an investment. It matters, big time.

Savvy investors like Buffet and Munger routinely apply this very same litmus test to the teams running the businesses into which they consider investing, though with less precision in my observation. Recently I attended the New York Venture Summit, held in New York City. One panel discussion I attended is particularly relevant. A panel of highly successful venture investors was queried on the most important attributes of their investment targets. The first answer? A strong management team.

But what attributes specifically made for a strong team in the eyes of the panelists?

Strong teams had both "managers" and "leaders" at the helm. "Teams" comprised of just one person trying to play both roles were considered weaker and riskier. But the panel did not go the full mile and create a general principle out of this observation. This eBook does. Here's the first conclusion:

A successful business leadership team needs at least two players, and they must be complementary.

In support of this idea, we know of Bill Draper, a legendary venture investor in the Silicon Valley. Draper was the founder of Sutter Hill Investments, one of the first VC's in the Valley. Fifty years later Sutter Hill still produces some of the best returns on investment in the world of venture capital. Draper and his team have a knack for picking winners and avoiding losers. In his recent book "The Startup Game," Draper talks at length about the importance of teams with the right composition. He says:

"You have to make sure that you have the right entrepreneurial team." Draper writes. "Nothing is more important. In fact, nothing [else] is even a close second."

These are strong words from some of the world's most successful investors, people whose money has funded Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Google and hundreds of other iconic companies. But even Draper did not in his writings connect the dots as we have done here:

Our message to you, the Vision Master, is "don't try to go it alone," because you probably won't win and you probably won't get investment dollars. But just having "partners" is not enough.

We assert here that as a Vision Master, you MUST team up with an Execution Master, one single individual who expresses complementary skills and work preferences while sharing your business values.

Let me say this in a different way: A Vision Master without an Execution Master a like a high-performance car with no brakes and no steering. There's a great deal of forward motion but no way to control it. No way to avoid obstacles or change direction when needed.

The smartest investors recognize this already and are going to evaluate you and your team based in part on this assertion. As an example of how they score you, we have created a proprietary Intelliversity Executive Team ScorecardTM that is used confidentially by a number of investment funds. (The Scorecard can be found in the Born to Star complete guide when you download it.)

You'll notice that:

  1. Having an Execution Master on team is explicitly included as a criterion;
  2. The key elements of an Execution Master skillset and mindset are included as separate criteria. It would be very difficult to incorporate these skillset and mindset elements without actually having an Execution Master on the executive team.

So let's briefly review where we are:

We considered the sad case of Nikola Tesla, the ultimate visionary whose incredible ability to create from nothing was perhaps only equaled by his immense failure to properly manage his business affairs.

I then posited that team composition – specifically the presence of and relationship between a Vision Master and an Execution Master on a business team – predicts winning performance in business. I didn't ask you to buy this theory but invited you to explore it.

We began by looking at the research of Wagner and Muller on successful collaboration and found a strong correlation between success and a partnership with complementary skill-sets. We then looked at examples from the world of investment and found a wealth of agreement among the world's foremost investors that team composition (not just having a team) strongly correlates to success or failure. We then connected the dots and drew our innovative conclusion:

If you are a Vision Master, you MUST team up with an Execution Master, one single individual who expresses complementary skills and work preferences while sharing your business values.

Key takeaways: We assert that:

  • A combination of vision and execution skills are present in the best partnerships;
  • Few individuals have the requisite skill-set, desire or time in both of these areas to succeed;
  • The smart money is invested into teams that have high talent in both positions.
  • The best teams have an Execution Master in the most senior role, just below the founding Vision Master.

Start-up Business Plan InnovationFor you to believe this and take it seriously, you're going to need some examples from businesses that you'll respect, and a clearer picture of the differences between Vision Master and Execution Master.

Let's begin with a look at just who the Vision Master and the Execution Master are and what inherent qualities each brings to a successful business team.

Next - Part 4: The Vision Master & the Execution Master - The Challenge of Self-Awareness 

*Click on book image to go to download page. This eBook is offered in its entirety, including bonus materials and Leadership Scorecards©, at no charge for a limited time, exclusively to Intelliversity readers.

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Part 4 - The Vision Master & the Execution Master

Startup Success - The Vision Master and The Execution MasterThe challenge of self-awareness

Let's take a brief look at an immensely talented person, who had incredible success – to a point.

In the picture below, Leonardo Da Vinci doesn't look too happy, does he? He was among the most talented individuals in history. Scientist, philosopher, architect, painter, sculptor. A businessman? A success in his time? Not so much.

Da Vinci was undoubtedly a creative powerhouse.

Completion, it turns out, was a life-long challenge for him. Recognized as a creative genius, Da Vinci received funding for many years by wealthy benefactors. Yet he left the world fewer than 20 completed paintings and not a single completed statue, building, book or device. As you might imagine, this left his backers continually frustrated.

They could marvel at masterpieces like the Mona Lisa, yet curse his inability to complete hundreds of other works in science, art, architecture and other endeavors. Researchers Martin Kemp and Jane Roberts note that Leonardo tried to do too many things too well, and after making propitious beginnings on many of these projects, he abandoned most of them.

What would a business manager (with an Execution Master mindset) have meant to Da Vinci?

Leonardo was the consummate Polymath, a term of Greek origin meaning "having learned much," but more generally used today to indicate a person who believes— erroneously-- that he or she can complete any task with enough determination and perseverance. The polymath is a myth, and our culture is replete with mythic examples, from James Bond to Rocky Balboa. They are masters of their domains and embody all of the attributes of the Vision Master and the Execution Master within them. Within the bounds of the myth, it isn't good enough for us to be fantastic visionaries unless we are also consummate implementers, too. The problem is that almost nobody can embody all of these qualities alone, AT THE SAME TIME.

Leonardo da VinciLeonardo provides us with a perfect example of the Vision Master operating without an Execution Master. He was accountable to no one because he had no business partner to answer to, no deadlines to meet and no schedules to keep. Most important, he had no powerful respected partner that could keep this unquestioned genius on track. As a result, Da Vinci went from patron to patron over his career, eventually "wearing out his welcome," leaving behind piles of unfinished work and moving on to start something new for someone else. We can only gaze at much of his work and think "what might have been."

So what were the critical skill-sets and innate talents and preferences that Leonardo both had and lacked? By assessing these, we can begin to paint the picture of what a Vision Master and an Execution Master look like in action. And we can also begin to understand why – despite what the myths tell us – very few people embody the full set of these capabilities; and thus why most of us on our own can provide only an "incomplete picture" of the total set of skills, talents and proclivities needed for a winning Vision Master/Execution Master duo.

The first step to understanding these important distinctions is self-awareness. Simply put, what am I good at and what do I prefer doing with my time? And of course, what am I less talented at and/or prefer doing less?

As Clint Eastwood famously said, playing "Dirty Harry" Callahan, "A man's got to know his limitations." Without belaboring the point, history provides us with plenty of examples of the cost of not knowing one's limitations, such as:

  • Icarus – from Greek Mythology – who flew too close to the sun and had his wings melt and fell from the sky to destruction
  • Napoleon – Who sold nearly half of what is now the United States for about $15 million dollars, used the money to finance the failed invasion of Russia and died in exile
  • Richard Nixon – Who thought he was above the law and was impeached and disgraced

And the list goes on.

You might think you already know what your strengths and limitations are: to what degree you embody those valuable skill-sets, talents, abilities, likes and dislikes essential to leading a company. But don't be so sure. The problem is that self-assessment of these qualities is inherently flawed for two reasons:

  1. People are not familiar with the precise distinctions of skill sets, abilities, and
    preferences needed by the Vision Master and the Execution Master
  2. Methods for accurately measuring oneself within these categories are not well-known

I'll add a third problem as well – bias. Put simply: you're biased. So am I. Turns out we're all biased to one degree or another. We tend to think we have a broader set of exceptional core skills and innate abilities than we do – or when we assess ourselves, we minimize our dislike of certain things in life and work. Quoting from Wikipedia, in an article on "illusory superiority":

  • In a survey of faculty at the University of Nebraska, 68% rated themselves in the top 25% for teaching ability, and more than 90% rated themselves as above average.
  • In a similar survey, 87% of MBA students at Stanford University rated their academic performance as above the median.

Let's call this the "Illusory Superiority" Bias. The Illusory Superiority Bias has also explained phenomena such as the large amount of stock market trading (as each trader thinks they are the best, and most likely to succeed), and the number of lawsuits that go to trial (because, due to illusory superiority, many lawyers have an inflated belief that they will win a case).

The difference between Disruptive vs. Managing Leadership

An excellent way to further understand the different qualities needed in a Vision Master versus an Execution Master is to consider two different modes of leadership style – Disruptive Leadership and Managing Leadership.Disruptive Leadership is what most people mean when they point to an entrepreneur or founder of a company.

Managing Leadership is what most people mean when they point to a "Chief Something or Other" in a company – often the COO, sometimes the CEO.

Notice that neither is more or less important. Rather, think of them as equally vital complementary roles within your organization, each based on a different leadership style.

Sometimes, the people in these two roles within a company flourish and form a natural and powerful combination to propel a team forward. But sometimes things don't go as smoothly. A primary reason for this takes us back to the all-important need for self-awareness. That's because as it turns out, some disruptive leaders think they are managing leaders and some managing leaders think they are disruptive leaders. You do have to know who you are and who you're not and believe it.

Let's begin to distinguish these two leadership styles.

Disruptive Leadership is characterized by the following qualities in a leader:

  • Determining direction – where is the company going?
  • Placing value on the chosen direction
  • Goal-oriented more than people-oriented
  • Creating disruptive actions
  • Thinking long term
  • Trying to protect the company from Managing Leaders

Managing Leadership is characterized by the following qualities:

  • Determining specifically how the company will "get there" and drive the process
  • Valuing the speed of direction – loathing factors that slow them down
  • More people-oriented (though they certainly set task-related goals)
  • Thinking more in the short-term (what's the next thing to be done) rather than long-term
  • Practicing defensive thinking – what could go wrong and what can we do about it?
  • Trying to protect the company from the Disruptive Leader

Let me give you two brief examples to distinguish further disruptive leadership from managing leadership: Mahatma Gandhi and George Patton. How is that for giving you two unmistakably different historical characters to explore?

Vision Master GandhiGandhi was a Disruptive Leader. He was focused on a tremendous vision to set his people free from colonial control by the British Empire. He was not just the "spiritual" leader of the movement he created; he was insistent that the movement be grounded in the principle of peaceful non-cooperation and would not allow his fellow leaders and followers to move off this path. Gandhi thought in terms of long-range goals – envisioning how his people would feel and what they'd experience once they could govern themselves. He created a long series of disruptive actions, some involving his non-compliance with British rule and some by galvanizing millions of people to refuse peacefully to cooperate with the overlords.

Gandhi held to his long-term vision and held that vision for his people, despite personal suffering and extended periods of time in which no tangible results seemed to be occurring. Review the list of qualities above that express the essence of the Disruptive Leader. You can clearly see that Gandhi embodied each of these, and his leadership won independence for India against tremendous odds.


George Patton
George Patton

George Patton was known for two things: brilliant tactics on the battlefield and a penchant for putting his foot in his mouth when away from the battlefield. Patton engaged in long-standing disputes with his superiors and with his allies in the field, most notably British General Bernard Montgomery.

But in a crisis, you could trust Patton to think and act fast. For example, during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, a surprise German offensive swept through the Ardennes threatening to sever American and British forces and effectively stop the Allied invasion of Europe in its tracks.

Patton's army, some 300 miles to the south, was alerted in a frantic request for aid. Patton immediately ordered elements of his 3rd Army into action, covering the 300- miles of mountainous terrain in record speed to arrive on the field in time to slow the German offensive until superior Allied air power could neutralize the German forces.

Notice the qualities Patton exhibited. Over the prior months, he had rigorously trained his troops to handle the most challenging objectives and taught that aggressive attack was the best way to minimize casualties. With confidence in his training, he responded immediately to a call for help.

Patton mobilized his troops and developed a plan on-the-fly to get them to where the action was as fast as possible. At that moment, Patton likely did not pause to consider the long-range strategic reasons as to why his army was stationed where it was. He acted, and he used tactical thinking to get it moved to a new location quickly. In his mind, we might assume, Patton was alarmed by what could go wrong – his aim was to prevent a German breakthrough and a splitting of the Allied forces in the short- term. The long-term wouldn't much matter if the invasion force was stalled or worse, destroyed piece by piece. Patton's actions at the Battle of the Bulge provide a clear example of the qualities of the Managing Leader in action.

Hopefully, you're beginning to see the sharp distinction in style between these two essential leadership positions – and you're recognizing why it is so rare for any single person to embody each of them at the level of excellence required for business success. Consider what the India revolution might have been with Patton as its leader (a blood bath) or the Battle of the Bulge with Gandhi commanding the 3rd Army (also a blood bath, but a losing one)!

Born to Star 2017Incidentally, Gandhi had an Execution Master of his own, namely Jawaharlal Nehru, a consummate politician. Is there any student of history reading this who would deny that this combination of leadership talent was needed for the independence of India?

Next - Part 5: The Disruptive Leader (Vision Master ) - Know the Five Habits of Disruptive Leaders 

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Part 5 - The Disruptive Leader (Vision Master) 

Startup Success - Vision MasterKnow the Five Habits of Disruptive Leaders

As Vision Master for your company, you are most likely to be in the role of, and be best suited for, the duties of the Disruptive Leader. So let’s explore five habits of successful Disruptive Leaders to help you further ground yourself in the qualities you’ll need to embody. Note that these qualities tend to be innate rather than learned.

Evidence for this was presented by Clay Christiansen of the Harvard Business School and co-authors Jeff Dyer and Hal Gregerson in their book “The Innovator’s Dilemma.” In the book, the authors present five habits of mind that are characteristic of “disruptive innovators.” The 5 habits are:

  • Associating – the ability to connect seemingly unconnected things to generate new ideas.
  • Questioning – constantly asking why things aren’t done differently and better
  • Observing – the tendency to notice problems and phenomena that others don’t see
  • Networking – socializing extensively and purposefully to pick up and explore new ideas
  • Experimenting – continually “fiddling” with their ideas, products and business models

As you scan this list, think about your overall mindset in business and life. Think about your current project or company and whether you are embodying these habits of mind. This isn’t to say that you have to be a complete master of each quality. Rather, consider whether it is your natural inclination to persistently practice these habits of mind, particularly regarding your business life. These qualities are the heart of innovation, and the business world is full of notable examples that I’ll profile throughout this book.

It is also important to mention that if you are the founder of a business (or considering founding one) and you don’t personally resonate with these habits of mind; you may be best suited to play a role within an existing company, as opposed to attempting to lead a new startup as its Disruptive Leader. I say this from years of observing both successful and unsuccessful business startups.

Again and again the ability to practice continuous innovation marks the most successful startups. A comment from a colleague who has invested in more than 80 business ventures, most of them startups or early stage companies, confirms this. During a conversation about business planning, he quipped, “I’ve never invested in a single company that went to market with the same business plan it had when I invested.”

When I queried 30 members of the Tech Coast Angels, one of the largest early-stage investor groups in California, I got the same answer from each of them. That has been my experience as well. I can’t think of a single business model presented to me that survived more than a short period of time before morphing into something different, before eventually gaining market traction. The bottom line is that being a Disruptive Leader (Vision Master) requires continuous innovation, which in turn requires the habits of mind listed above.

As I read the five habits listed above the image came to mind of that individual who is as comfortable in a lab coat as in a sport coat. In other words, I pictured that consummate innovator who dedicates ample time and energy into both the product/invention/idea and the customer/market/world.

I believe the Disruptive Leader’s most important responsibility is to continue practicing his or her personal style of disruption, creativity and innovation for many years into the company’s future – and to be an example to the other creative members of the team. This is both the Disruptive Leader’s joy and burden.

Let’s look at these five habits of mind again from a slightly different perspective. Notice that four out of the five have to do with your internal activities – activities within your own mind.

The one habit of mind that seemingly doesn’t belong on the list, the one that is very distinct from the others, is networking. By definition and in practice networking is external, focused out into the world. I believe it is this particular habit of mind that differentiates the “ivory tower” professor of, say, robotics from the Vision Master of a robotics company. This type of professor is likely to be at least as skilled and knowledgeable in his field, but is more suitable for a career writing and teaching, rather than building a business. And a major reason for that is this fifth habit – that willingness and actual desire to be out in the world networking, gathering business and cultural data, knowing the pulse of the market. The Vision Master has that; the professor generally doesn’t.

You may think I’m implying that the Vision Master is naturally outgoing and personable, but this is not necessary, and probably not true most of the time. The Vision Master is not usually “warm” and “relationship-oriented.” I’ve earlier defined the Vision Master as task or goal-oriented rather than relationship-oriented. He or she values networking for strategic reasons, but is not necessarily naturally comfortable in social situations. Vision Masters I’ve studied, such as Elon Musk and Steve Jobs are/were not naturally social; they compensate for their natural introversion and learn to question and inspire others as a necessary part of their long term plan. The face of the company is not necessarily naturally warm.

As you take a look at the five habits of mind that the Vision Master needs to embody, it will be helpful to have an assessment tool so that you can objectively rate yourself – and later your new hires – from the perspective of “suitability.” So let’s define and explore suitability.

Assessing Your Suitability as a Vision Master

The reason to explore your “suitability” as a Vision Master are:

  1. To determine if you are really ready to start or expand an investor-worthy innovative business;
  2. To determine what attributes (skill sets, work preferences, etc.) are needed in other team members.

Point 2 is important because even if you are a qualified Vision Master, you may have areas of weakness and gaps that the rest of your team can handle. You need to know where these shortcomings and gaps are so you can choose the right kind of Execution Master and other team members.

Let’s say you’re the type of Vision Master who is both analytical and hard-edged and doesn’t like the public eye. This may inspire you to find an Execution Master who is more sociable and easy-going and is good as the public face of the company. Or you may be a Vision Master who is socially competent and loves being in the public eye (good for public relations) but hard-edged and analytical in private. So then you don’t need a public-facing Execution Master, but you still need an Execution Master, who is good at building relationships internally. Or you may be very easy-going and need an Execution Master who is a real demanding and hard-edged type. You have to know yourself well to make these decisions.

I think the best way to explore suitability is to contrast it with “eligibility.” Eligibility is simply the set of qualifications necessary to be capable of performing a particular task or role. Suitability is whether the person prefers to perform a role and is really comfortable in that role.

To apply this distinction specifically to suitability for a particular role on a business team, we can say that eligibility asks if a candidate can perform the duties of his or her position and suitability is a function of whether he or she will perform those duties consistently well.

So what determines whether a person will perform consistently well in a certain role?

There are objective factors that can offer guidance in determining suitability to be a Vision Master. Let’s go through a scientifically reliable suitability process with an eye towards your self-assessment for the role of Vision Master in your company, but one you can use in determining the suitability of anyone for any role in your company.

To measure your own suitability, you must first determine what is needed regarding work and leadership style for the Vision Master role – that’s where the five habits of mind we just examined come into play.

So you need to measure yourself with some scoring system such as a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being a strong natural inclination towards practicing one of those five habits in your business life and 1 being a weak inclination towards practicing that habit. But don’t just stop with the 5 habits – they’re excellent predictors, but not necessarily sufficient on their own since habits of mind won’t necessarily always determine habits of action.

This is where tools like the Harrison Assessment or a work-style assessment tool such as that provided by Kolbe can be truly valuable. A white paper written by the folks at Harrison is instructive on this point. In that paper, the author says that “the first challenge is to determine which suitability factors relate to job success for a particular job. However, even when that is established, to assess accurately job suitability, you also need to formulate how different levels of each suitability factor will impact job success.”

To accomplish this level of suitability testing, you have to consider many factors that could relate to job success. In fact, a Harrison Assessment poses more than 100 suitability questions to make this determination. I can’t replicate an entire Harrison Assessment for you here. But let’s break down one of the five habits of mind we examined above, illustrating a small sample of the kind of detail the Harrison Assessment entails.

For this exercise I’ll use the habit of mind called Questioning – constantly asking why things aren’t done differently and better. Suppose having done a brief self- assessment on this habit of mind you’ve given yourself a score of 4 out of 5. That’s a pretty high score, so we assume at the outset that you practice this habit consistently and thus have one of the key traits of a successful Vision Master.

Now let’s dive into this a little more deeply by posing the following questions about the habit of Questioning:

  1. How often in a typical day do you find yourself operating as a questioner of existing processes involved in your work?
  2. Is this questioning focused in a particular area or on many subjects and issues?
  3. How deeply do you probe into a process or situation?
  4. What types of action do you tend to take after a period of questioning?
  5. When do you tend to stop questioning and allow a process just to proceed as is?

Questions like these provide a deeper cut into the ways in which you practice the habit of mind called Questioning. They’ll measure how you engage in questioning, not just whether or not you engage in it. And they’ll measure how you resolve matters and what forms of action or response you are most likely to take.

Factors like these can help you to understand how deeply you embody a particular habit of mind and how that shows up in your leadership style. This, in turn, gives you predictive evidence as to your leadership style and preference.

This evidence proves useful for a Vision Master that is building a team because it can give you actionable clues about your missing skill sets or habits of mind and the types of complementary skill sets and habits of mind that you should seek in other key hires – especially your Execution Master.

Select an Execution Master now, not later

Advice from a Venture Capitalist - William DraperSpeaking of the Execution Master, in the next part of this book I’m going to share with you exactly why he or she is so critical to a successful business team and how to find the right person to fill that role in your company. But let me leave you with an insight from William Draper III, general partner of Silicon Valley investment firm Draper Richards and co-founder of Sutter Hill Ventures, on how investors view the role of the Vision Master in a company. Draper, in his book “The Startup Game,” says that:

“If the product turns out to be wrong, the visionary leader will come up with a new one. If the market shrinks, the [visionary] leader will steer the whole team toward another one. So it’s not surprising that [my team] and I are less interested in the details of the plan and more interested in appraising the talents of the [visionary] leader.”

There you have it on good authority. If the visionary leader Mr. Draper speak about above sounds like you, then your next job is to find a great person to help you carry out your goals, dreams, and vision – an Execution Master.

It’s important to find candidates for the Execution Master role BEFORE you seek funding as many investors today will be most impressed by your attention to this aspect of building a team.

I’ve heard two main objections to this stated by founders:

  1. I can handle the management duties of an Execution Master myself, for the time being; and
  2. We don’t have any money to hire an Execution Master.

On point 1, the story Martin Eberhard at Tesla Motors should be a warning. See the next part of this book.

On point 2, you don’t need money to identify candidates for Execution Master. You just need to know how important and high priority this is.

Innovative Startup SuccessKey Takeaway: A Vision Master must know and accept his/her strengths and work on their preferences in detail, in order to determine if he is ready for the role and to determine what type of Execution Master to select. The Execution Master should be selected before seeking funding.

Next - Part 6: Selecting an Execution Master - A Vision Master who really needed an Execution Master

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Part 6 - Selecting the Right Execution Master – The Key to the Vision Master’s Success

Born to Star Startup Success part 6In this installment, we will look at examples of the wrong combination of Vision and Execution Master and what factors lead to an unsuccessful pairing.

Martin Eberhard, Tesla Motors’ original Vision Master

In 2003 Engineer Martin Eberhard had a vision for a genuinely useful, powerful and cost-effective line of electric cars, based on the rapidly improving energy density of Lithium-ion batteries and the AC induction motor invented by Nikola Tesla. He partnered with engineer Marc Tarpenning and launched Tesla Motors on a shoestring. Elon Musk, with funds from the sale of Paypal, led the first round of investment in 2004. Tarpenning is still with the company, as of this writing. Eberhard, the visionary, was gone by 2008. Musk, still the largest single investor is now CEO.

This is the story about Eberhard’s experience losing control of his vision and what can be learned by other visionary founders.

Eberhard should have and could have brought an Execution Master on the team as COO or CEO as soon as funding was received if not earlier.

By the end of 2006, the company had still not delivered its first product. The Tesla Roadster was running out of cash and was falling behind on engineering schedule. The following quoted material is extracted from “Tesla -- the Origin Story” in Business Insider, October 2014:

“Martin Eberhard was quoted saying: ‘I had never run a company that was getting that big,’ he added. ‘It was time for us to bring in some professional management capability.’”

“Over dinner with [Elon] Musk in San Carlos the following January, the night before the board of directors meeting, Eberhard floated the idea of bringing in a new CEO, pointing out that sorting out the company's financial picture and getting SAP [enterprise resource planning software] up and running was beyond his skill level. He couldn't pull SAP together because of its complexity, and he couldn't get a handle on costs because SAP wasn't working.”

“And, oh yeah, there was the challenge of running the organization, which had grown to 140 people.”

“The next day at the board meeting, Musk and Eberhard pitched the idea of bringing in a new CEO so that Eberhard could focus on product, particularly the next car, codenamed ‘Whitestar,’ what we know today as the Model S sedan.”

“Eberhard received a lot of support.”

“‘Several board members thanked me for my service thus far, and encouraged me to remain with the company in a technical and visionary role,’ he recalled. ‘It was a completely friendly discussion, with a couple of speeches from board members about how it was very much the normal course of a startup for the entrepreneur- founder to move into a different role as the company grew. Someone on the board cited Google as an example.’”

“That same month, Musk traveled to Lotus Engineering headquarters to check on the progress of the Roadster — without Eberhard. According to Powell, the purpose of the visit would have been to ‘give Lotus confidence in the financial commitment so that Lotus would continue supporting the program.’”

“‘I’m sure you can imagine I find this a rather awkward situation where Elon has asked for Lotus' view of the production timing of the project,’ Lotus Engineering director Simon Wood subsequently wrote to Eberhard.”

“According to Lotus, which bore much of the responsibility for the success of the Roadster and Tesla as a whole, the car that would change the world was already three months behind schedule.”

“Musk's voice grew more urgent after the visit to England.

“‘There are several burning Roadster issues that need Martin's attention right now,’ he wrote in an email on Jan. 24. ‘We have slipped delivery significantly already and are at risk of slipping even more. I feel strongly that Martin should minimize any optional activity, particularly low to moderate value PR and finance meetings, and focus on company execution, which will have a major effect on our financing and valuation.’”

“Musk said the greatest value he saw in hiring a CEO is that it would allow Eberhard to concentrate on making the Whitestar and future models ‘superlative.’”

“Stress was building — as is perhaps to be expected given the magnitude of Tesla's ambitions — but, fortunately, Musk and Eberhard were still on speaking terms.”

“But none of the candidates were good enough. And neither, apparently, was Eberhard.”

“Emails indicated that on June 13 he began receiving calls from reporters asking if Tesla's board was planning to hire a new CEO to replace him.

“The ‘best strategy would be to get out in front of this and embrace it, just as Larry and Sergey did at Google,’ Musk advised in an email.”

“‘I would be happy to correct the perception that you are being fired,’ he wrote later that day. ‘The objective fact is you brought up the CEO search yourself several months ago.’”

“In August, Eberhard was speaking at a conference put on by the Motor Press Guild, the trade group for automotive magazines, when he got a call from a nervous- sounding Musk.”

“The chairman had some tough news for him: Michael Marks, the former CEO of the manufacturer Flextronics and early Tesla investor, was taking over as CEO.

“The Tesla board had held a meeting without him, Eberhard said, and decided that it was time for him to go.”

“‘There was no discussion,’ Eberhard said. ‘I didn't get to hear what they said. I didn't get to defend myself. I felt totally stranded.’”

“On Aug. 8, 2007, Eberhard resigned from his executive position, taking the title ‘president of technology.’”

“Marks became the new CEO.”

“‘I never figured out what was said about me to those people,’ Eberhard said.”

“Though he stayed on the board and remained on staff with the company, Martin was off everything but troubleshooting and tending to peripheral issues.”

“He'd been shut out of the company he founded.”

“The whole exchange was classic Musk, said Harrigan, the VP of customer service and support who would become the VP of marketing.

“‘[Musk] is the kind of boss where day to day you don't know if you have a job or not,’ he said.”

“‘Once he's convinced that you can't do the job, there's no way you can convince him back again,’ Harrigan added. ‘That happened many times to many people, and that's what happened with Martin. Once he [the lead investor] determined that Martin couldn't be the CEO of Tesla any longer, that was it. He was fired.’”

“Several outside CEO’s came in, and eventually, Musk took over the CEO job himself. That’s a whole other story.”

Here are further comments by Jason M. Lemkin, Managing Director, Storm Ventures, on Quora:

“I can only imagine the story is much the same as in any other start-up going through a rough patch:”

  1. Elon Musk wanted to invest in, but not run, Tesla. He was not an employee or CEO at first — only Chairman. He staked the capital in an inexperienced, but passionate, first-time CEO with limited management experience. This is not the first time this has happened in the start-up world.”
  2. “The founding team had no real background in automobiles, and the project came in way late, and way over budget (as often is the case). It appears the budget planning process under Eberhard was poor, and the true Roadster COGS vastly exceeded the purchase price for the Roadster.”
  3. “Fair or not (probably fair), Musk lost confidence in Eberhard for being late and over budget and inexperienced. Investors know cr*p happens, but they have to believe the CEO is doing the best job possible when it does. That wasn’t the case here. Musk realized as the largest funder of Tesla; something had to be done, otherwise, it would run off a cliff and die.”
  4. “After briefly bringing in another outside CEO, it appears it became clear no one else was going to fund Tesla without further changes. So the answer ended up being that Musk needed to plow all of his liquid fortune into the company and take over as CEO.”
  5. “The fact is, it was the right decision. Tesla did almost die in the financial crisis, and ended up needing numerous lifelines, including not just Musk’s entire liquid fortune, but also from Mercedes and Toyota, which I am confident only someone of Musk’s charisma and passion could pull off. Beyond that, the company has needed to raise over a billion dollars in the equity and debt markets and via loans.”

“It’s highly, highly unlikely Eberhard could have pulled that off. My facts may be off, the only point I am making is it’s the Same Old Start-Up Story of a Passionate, Very Smart, But Inexperienced Founder who Missed All the Milestones and Blew All the Cash.”

B. The Investor’s Perspective

Unfortunately for Mr. Eberhard, he didn’t recognize the clues and hints that immediate action was needed to bring in a senior Execution Master. The investors (in this case, Musk) stepped in to speed up the process. So let’s take a look at what investors have to say about the need for an Execution Master in your business.

The investor panel discussion I attended at the New York Venture Summit focused on a few key things investors look for in evaluating investment targets. At the top of the list was team composition. Both VC’s and Angels on the panel stressed the importance of having more than just a visionary leader on the senior management team. They wanted to see that the team included a CEO, President or COO with management experience and domain expertise. William Draper, whom I’ve mentioned above, believes that some of the best results come when the entrepreneur [Vision Master] knows that he is unqualified to manage a fast-moving, quickly changing young enterprise for very long and immediately asks the venture capitalist to help find an experienced CEO, President or COO.”

Paul Graham, Co-Founder of Y Combinator, a major Bay Area business incubator that has funded more than 1,000 startups, lists “single founder” first on a list of 18 mistakes that kill startups, noting that the task of building a company today is simply too difficult for one person.

I could go on indefinitely with quotes from investors on the need for having both the core skill sets of the Vision Master and the Execution Master within a senior management team. But by now you get the point: the guys and gals with the money want your team to be complete, and that requires the full set of skill sets and leadership styles of the Vision Master and the Execution Master.

To illustrate this point further, you’ll find Intelliversity’s Execution Master ScorecardTM contained in the Born to Star – Secret to Startup Success. Like the Executive Team ScorecardTM also in the eBook, this proprietary Scorecard is used privately by several investment funds to evaluate how well a company has gone about the process of selecting an Execution Master.

You are welcome to use the Scorecard both at the beginning of your search for an Execution Master and when you are evaluating several candidates for the role.

C. A Bad Vision Master and Execution Master Pair

I want to share with you two successful pairings and one unsuccessful pairing of Vision Masters and Execution Masters to give you a very clear and practical picture of what successful and unsuccessful collaboration between these two leaders looks like. We’ll begin with a pairing that failed miserably.

In 1983 Steve Jobs, Founder, and CEO of Apple Computer felt he needed a mentor to help take the company to new heights. Jobs and the Apple Board quickly began a search for an experienced CEO to provide “adult supervision” to the wildly creative, but unpredictable Jobs. Jobs lured John Sculley, then President of Coca-Cola, to Apple by asking him in essence if he “just wanted to sell sugar water for the rest of his life.”

Apple sales rose 55% in 1984 as this new dynamic duo set to work. But by 1985 Jobs had resigned (forced out) and the Company was failing to even approach its sales forecasts. What happened?

In short, Jobs [the Vision Master] and Sculley [the Execution Master] were simply incompatible. Their personal values, characters, and interests were miles apart. This was not about complementary skill sets or work preferences. They were too far apart at the level of values. As a result, their interactions were marked by a curious combination of emotional outbursts and sullen distance. Jobs, with a new title of Vice President, had been responsible for developing the new Macintosh computer.

Sculley, as CEO, took charge of day to day operations of the company as a whole. When sales of the new Macintosh were flat and falling, each blamed the other and a power struggle ensued. The Board sided with Sculley and removed Jobs from his managerial duties.

The antagonistic and unproductive relationship between the Vision Master and the Execution Master at Apple is instructive for any Vision Master seeking to find his or her counterpart on the execution side. We can look at four specific failures in the Jobs-Sculley relationship that you’ll want to avoid.

You can do this by carefully assessing your counterpart before you make the selection, based on the Execution Master ScorecardTM and avoiding these specific issues above all:

  • Unstable chemistry
  • No trust
  • Superficial respect based on wealth, position or reputation
  • Different business values

So, to avoid the disaster of a Jobs-Sculley partnership, look for:

  • Stable chemistry
  • Deep trust
  • Informed respect based on personal abilities
  • Shared business values

Stable Chemistry

The Vision Master and the Execution Master have to genuinely enjoy working together. This takes time to discover. Jobs and Sculley had only an initial infatuation. For Sculley, Jobs and Apple was a new challenge to master. For Jobs, Sculley was the mentor father-figure to organize his tempestuous company. These were shallow motivations for a real relationship. When the courtship phase ended and times got tough at Apple, the relationship fell apart.

Deep Trust

Deep trust is letting someone else “take care of your baby” in a sense. There is a need for the Vision Master to trust the Execution Master’s intentions and values. Sculley hadn’t run a technology company before. When things began to go south, Jobs responded by trying to take the decision-making power back. When Sculley realized Jobs was making a power play, he turned to the Board for reassurance, rather than turning to Jobs to work things out. There simply wasn’t a deep foundation of trust between the two men.

Informed Respect

The Vision Master and the Execution Master need to develop a firm respect for the abilities and character of one another. This respect needs to be grounded in reality, not just a superficial high esteem. Jobs and Sculley were vastly different men in character. Jobs was emotional, erratic, bullying and brilliant. Sculley was sedate, stable, polite and highly effective. The problem was not the differences. The problem was the two men found themselves not respecting one another most of the time once they discovered their true natures. It’s possible (essential) for a Vision Master and Execution Master to deeply respect each other while acknowledging their differences and weaknesses. This is the level of informed respect that you have to have, and Sculley and Jobs did not.

Shared Values

On the surface it appeared that Jobs and Sculley had shared values – they both wanted to change the world. But the way that Jobs planned to do this, through insanely great products for unconventional minds, was incongruent with the conventional corporate man Sculley, who was content with above-average products and great marketing. The two men could have discovered these un-aligned business values and made a different decision. They missed this opportunity.

As I have stated elsewhere in this book the Vision Master and the Execution Master use different leadership styles, and this is essential in order for both to perform at a consistently high level. But that does not imply bringing together people with such profoundly different values that they just can’t coexist in the same company.

So Your'e Thinking About a Startup BusinessIn Part 7 we will look at two partnerships that did work. Happily, for Apple and its stockholders, one of those examples involves that company.

Next - Part 7: Selecting an Execution Master - The Perfect Vision Master and Execution Master Pair

*Click on book image to go to download page. This eBook is offered in its entirety, including bonus materials and Leadership Scorecards©, at no charge for a limited time, exclusively to Intelliversity readers.

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