I'm currently mentoring two young, aspiring artists. It became clear to me, very quickly, that their vision of the pathway of success was incredibly clear. They're also very different.

They are both female and both leaders. They want to risk it all in a predominantly male-dominated world. I think this is fantastic. But what makes them truly stand out to me is that one wants to "go it alone." She wants to write everything herself and wants to control all aspects of her sound and direction without any  interference from other members. The other musician wants a whole unified band experience where everyone is an equal partner and all decisions are shared.

I have never seen young people grasp exactly what these decisions will mean for them in terms of creative and economic impact. And I've never had the opportunity to observe two artists with such clear and different paths at the same time. 

Often, when building a company from scratch, personality differences in the founders will dictate which path - which leadership style - they'll take. That's not to say that one is right and one is wrong. Both ways can lead to success (or failure) and it's not a given that, just because you have a vision and a loud mouth, you will crash due to a narcissistic and self-absorbed approach to other humans. Nor is it a guarantee that, because one sees a more communal convergence of spirit, it will make your path easier.

One must, however, realize early on that either approach needs just a bit of modification. For lack of a better word, one must be a politically minded thinker. You can think "I am in it alone for all the glory" but the practical application has to be tempered with the understanding that, in the beginning, you must make sure that people you bring in are compensated fully for the work that they do so that they feel, even if they leave tomorrow, that they have received proper compensation for delivering their talent, while at the same time, standing aside to let you take the credit.

The "communal minded leader" has his or her own unique leadership challenges. The most important thing to understand early on, is that no creative process is ever totally democratic. The individual skills brought into the business can vary and, over time, the strength and weaknesses of the partners will begin to show. This can lead to resentments by those who feel that their contribution is more meaningful to the success of the company. A true leader will see this all unfold before their eyes and will hopefully have conversations, alone or in a group, in which adjustments can be made that will allow you to move forward using the best parts of every partner.

There are many examples of success and failure of both of these pathways. You have to choose the one that best fits you.

Published on: Jul 16, 2015