Leadership:  Beginning to End



“When does leadership begin?”                 “When do my responsibilities end?”


These are pretty simple questions with much deeper implications.  I begin helping business and organizational leaders understand that leadership is a verb, not a noun; a role, not a position; something they choose, not something they are given.  Leadership exemplifies interaction and engagement with others.


From the beginning


Given that, leadership does not begin with my first supervisory role, it begins with the acceptance of my role as a leader within the organization.  This is a subtle but powerful difference.  Effective leaders identify with that role, regardless of title, and enjoy positions of influence and responsibility.  Think about your organization.  Who enjoys responsibility most?  Who chooses to step up and volunteer when asked?  Who conveys a positive attitude and takes charge when the situation demands it?


It is easy to see leadership in action within non-profit and volunteer organizations.  Do you think you have less leadership in your organization than needed?  Ask how many of your employees and associates are participating in leadership roles within non-profits, service clubs, church groups and your chamber of commerce.


I’ve offered to support a development project for the committee chairs on MAGNET’s Entrepreneur Committee.  The organization runs on a shoestring and yet the committee chairs have a group of 10 – 12 volunteers excited about their role, starting new initiatives, developing new ideas – and by the way, following up on their promises with regularity and results.  Oh – and by the way – these are people who are often in their 20’s & 30’s, have full time jobs, and are part of one or more start-up businesses.


Approaching the End


If we question how to leverage leadership early in our career or when a company is formed, how might we reconsider its end, or the sale of our business?


Owner A has been in the business for 37 years.  They have seen the ups and down’s, planned to retire 5 years ago, but because of the economy, delayed the decision.  He would sum up his closing of the business as the final event.  He has worked out a buy-sell with the minority owner, has an estate plan, knows how much money has accumulated in his retirement accounts, and paid his attorney and CPA to cover the basics.  Case closed.  September 30th will be the day he walks away.


Owner B has been in the business for 33 years.  Contrary to his peer, he has been thinking and planning for his retirement for the past 13 years.  His ultimate decision has also been delayed because of the economy, but he sees great opportunity to model business and personal leadership.  The process began with a list of important challenges to meet in the next chapter of his life, and moved through a number of significant decisions along the path.


We call it exit planning but that really is a misnomer.    Think of the decisions that need to be made well, so that the business can continue to prosper, it is better positioned to prosper in the coming years and the owner can look back with pride and gratitude.


With approach B, the following benefits are attainable:

  • providing the critical path to identify issues, tasks and challenges to address
  • deciding whether an internal or external sale is preferable to your situation
  • placing the right advisor in front of you at the right time
  • allowing time to maximize the value of the business before selling it
  • helping minimize the impact of taxation on your estate
  • identifying and developing the next generation of owners, along with their funding
  • establishing business continuity, and the opportunity for the next stage of growth


As you approach the end of your ownership position within the business, I hope that you look to the benefits and opportunities available to you and those who have built the business.  Leadership really never comes to an end, but increases in impact and opportunity; especially at the end.