At the core of Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO)'s mission is an unwavering commitment to helping entrepreneurs at every stage learn and grow. During Global Entrepreneurship Week, November 18-22, EO is hosting EO24/7, a five-day, free virtual learning event aimed at empowering entrepreneurs with skills and strategies to reach new levels of leadership.
Jane Bolin is an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in South Florida, an author, speaker and founder of PeytonBolin, PL, a community-minded real estate law firm. She holds the elected office of Oakland Park City Commissioner. In August, Jane spoke to an audience of global women entrepreneurs at the 2019 MyEO Women of EO Summit in Bogota, Colombia. The following is modified from Jane's speech transcript with permission.
Evolution of leadership
In college, I captained my rugby team and organized our school's first Take Back the Night event after a friend was raped. I was surprised by the outpouring of support.
I realized that when you stand as the voice for a worthy cause, people will follow you. I thought, "Hmmm. I might be a leader."
When I started my first business, though I enjoyed strong relationships with my team members, I showed up as a bit of a dictator in the office. After a lot of coaching, through both EO Accelerator and now as an EO member, I let go of (some of) my control and learned to delegate and trust the team that I'd hired. When I made the Inc. 5000 list in 2015, I finally felt comfortable in my business leadership role.
The pivotal moment that spurred me to action
Then came the presidential election of 2016. Let's just say it didn't go the way I had anticipated, and that inspired me to run for office.
I knew I wanted to be the change I wasn't seeing in government and politics, and I knew that all politics are local. I didn't want to run for a partisan position, so I ran for Oakland Park City Commission.
My campaign slogan was "Leadership and Vision for a Bright Future."
Let me be frank: Nobody in the city knew me. I wasn't involved in local government. I barely knew who our city's leaders were. But I'm not one to hesitate, so I dove in anyway.
Here's how I began: I Googled, "Who is my congressman? Who is my senator?" I viewed running for public office as if I were walking into a new business that I would be taking over. I looked at the org chart, and then I built relationships. I scheduled time with the mayor and other elected officials so they would have a better sense of who I am as a human being. It made all the difference.
A campaign is like a startup
I realized: Running a campaign is like running a startup. You create a campaign (your brand), organize a tribe of people (volunteers)--and people showed up to support me.
When you lead a tribe, you may not know every single individual. While most supporters align with your views, they probably don't agree with all of them. But you're a leader--you're inspiring hope. It's not about what you're doing; it's about who you're being.
I was standing for the City of Oakland Park, with plans to care for the people, our environment, and to make a difference.
Being a leader is what won me the election. So now I am leading a city. Be who you say you're going to be in the world, and that is what can happen.
See possibilities, not problems
The news media shares opinions around the viewpoint that "the world doesn't work"--and attributes blame. But if a forest is on fire, or people are running out of drinking water, it doesn't matter who's right or wrong.
We need people who look for possibilities instead of thinking, "the world is filled with problems." When you think that way, you aren't able to see solutions.
To run for political office, you need the following characteristics: Integrity, effective communication, commitment, passion, empathy, decision-making, delegation, accountability, innovation and the ability to inspire others into action.
Where else have you heard those qualities? It's a laundry list of leadership skills!
If you're a leader in your business, you're a leader somewhere else in your life.
On the surface, business and government seem totally different. But consider the similarities:
- In business, we have systems and processes. In government, it's efficiency (or the opposite: red tape).
- In business, we say "right people, right seats." In government, it's "competent staffing."
- In business, we say finance and profitability. In government, it's balancing a budget.
- In business, it's called production or sales. In government, it's creating jobs.
- In business, we're creating a culture. In government, it's creating a community.
The people I work with in local government think I have a magical point of view. I don't -- it's that I look at running a city through the lens of how I run my business.
Imagine if elected officials all knew how to run a business!
That got me thinking: What if more entrepreneurs interested in giving back ran for office? You might not want to run for office. But our world is at stake. Humanity is at stake!
Consider what matters most to you: Is it the environment? The UN Sustainable Development Goals? You can make a difference in that space by running for office. It's a lot of work, but as an entrepreneur, you already have the proven skills to lead.
I don't care if you're a Republican, Independent or Democrat. We need business leaders who see possibilities and solutions to bring competent leadership in our government.
We need competent leaders to lead our tribe. Because ultimately, there's only one tribe: Humanity.
Performing miracles isn't a matter of doing the impossible. It's a matter of redefining the possible.