Leadership is hard work or smart work or both!.
November 7, 2019
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“Being an entrepreneur is like eating glass and staring into the abyss of death” is a quote that’s often wrongly attributed to Musk.

In his interview with Khan Academy, Musk talks about what it takes to run a company. This is where these words originate from, and he attributes them to a friend of his. I’ve decided to cite that passage here in full, as it’s so recognizable for anyone who has been in a position of leadership, while this wisdom should be considered carefully by anyone who’s about to start a company or become CEO:

“A lot of times people think creating companies is gonna be fun. I would say it’s not, it’s really not that fun. I mean, there are periods of fun. And there are periods where it’s just awful. And particularly if you’re CEO of the company. You actually have a distillation of all the worst problems in a company.

There’s no point in spending your time on things that are going right, so you’re only spending your time on things that are going wrong. And those are other things that are going wrong that other people can’t take care of. So you have it the worst. You have a filter for the crappiest [sic] problems in the company. The most pernicious and painful problems.

It is very much hard work or smart work or both!.

Leadership is nothing but transforming a dream into reality or results. Absolute tough. People who had done it in the past, are not connected with academics. Only few of them were trained and educated.

Hard work means what? not following the time management matrix. Loving madness. Believing in a 24*7 time matrix.

So, I wouldn’t say it’s… I think you’d have to feel quite compelled to do it and have a fairly high pain threshold. A friend of mine says, starting a company is like staring into the abyss and eating glass. And there’s some truth to that.

The staring into the abyss part is that you’re constantly going to be facing the extermination of the company. Cause most startups fail. It’s like 90% or 99% of startups fail. So that’s the staring in the abyss part. So you’re constantly saying ‘if I don’t get this right, the company will die.’ Which can be quite stressful.

And then the eating glass part is that you got to work on the problems that the company needs you to work on, not the problems you want to work on. And so you end up working on problems that you really wish you weren’t working on. And so that’s the eating glass part. And that goes on for a long time.”

Just like the hardship we encountered in the article on Nike’s co-founder Phil Knight, keep this passage in mind when considering to launch your own company or take on the CEO position. Leadership is hard work.

About author

Dr Shailesh Thaker

Dr. Shailesh Thaker is a world-renowned management thinker and trainer on organizational behavior and development. He is the CLO of Knowledge Plus Inc., a highly reputed training firm based in Ahmedabad, India, helping organizations to achieve international benchmarks in management practices.

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