When It Comes To Entrepreneurship, We Need Fewer Kirks And More Picards
Every entrepreneur wants to be successful, but few of us are honest about what that really means. The truth is that most entrepreneurs want to “make it big,” which is a very different kind of success.
Most of us, at least in the world of tech, want fame, adulation, power, and everything that goes along with it. To deny that would be disingenuous.
We buy into a culture where we’re told that to achieve this type of success, we have to be brash, aggressive, “move fast and break things,” and always be in the limelight.
Our society equates wealth and fame with intelligence and skill, which leads entrepreneurs to set their values accordingly.
As a result, we see entrepreneurial “miracles” like Uber, Theranos, and even Facebook become mired in scandal.
This culture needs to change, and it has to start with the leaders of entrepreneurial organizations. As leaders, we must ask ourselves a pointed question: What kind of leader do we want to be?
Are you a Kirk or a Picard?
I’m of the belief that we need to promote and elect more “Philosopher Kings” to positions of power in both business and government.
The term Philosopher King originated with Plato, who used it to describe a wise leader who possessed intelligence, humility, reliability, and a willingness to live a simple life.
One such example is that of Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor who also happened to be a stoic philosopher.
I realize, however, that most of us aren’t precisely up-to-speed on our history of Roman emperors, so allow me to use a more contemporary example.
For my fellow Star Trek fans out there, you’ve no doubt engaged in the debate over the merits of Captain James T. Kirk vs. Captain Jean-Luc Picard.
These fictional Starfleet captains offer a perfect example of contrasting leadership styles.
Kirk, if you recall, is the quintessential celebrity leader; passionate, spontaneous, vain, and reckless. Perhaps that’s why people love him. With his swagger, bravado, and willingness to take risks, he represents everything we want to be.
Picard, on the other hand, is our Philosopher King. He’s temperate, measured, empathetic, and puts the needs of his crew above his own.
He’s not the type to take risks for the sake of fame and glory. Instead, he consistently demonstrates rationalism, steadfast devotion to the mission, fairness, and willingness to dialogue.
Kirk is an action hero, while Picard reminds us more of a grandfatherly mentor. While he might not be as exciting, Picard and his philosophical approach represent what more entrepreneurs need to emulate.
We don’t need another hero; we need a defender of values
We are a culture adrift. It feels like for every step we take toward enlightenment; we take two more back toward greed, pride, and hubris.
Silicon Valley and the entrepreneurs who look to it for inspiration and leadership like to think of themselves as enlightened, but in reality, they’re just like the rest of us.
For all of their musings about progressivism and disruption, their decisions and actions show them to be more of the same. They’re Captain Kirk, off for adventure and self-aggrandizement, regardless of the consequences.
When it comes to entrepreneurship (and one could argue society as a whole), this is mere vanity.
Instead, we must learn to be more like Picard, forgoing the hero role for being a steward of shared values.
In doing so, we can create a culture where ethical behavior is encouraged, and people feel safe pointing out things that they feel run counter to it.
Becoming your organization’s Picard
So what does this extended Star Trek metaphor mean for the modern entrepreneur?
Put simply; it is a call to reject the temptation to become an aggressive, vain, and win-at-all-costs type of leader.
Instead, entrepreneurs should push themselves to become servant leaders and philosopher kings who recognize that morality and business can never be separated.
I’ve learned that how you pursue success is more important than what you achieve.
This is not to say that results don’t matter. On the contrary, I’ve come to learn that the path you choose and culture you cultivate determines whether or not you’re a flash in the pan success or something of lasting value.
Becoming a philosopher king inside of your organization requires you to develop temperance, a willingness to dialogue, and a commitment to morality that does not falter in the face of adversity.
This measured, steady, and humble approach to leadership may not be sexy, but it is just the kind of enlightened leadership today’s entrepreneurs need to adopt going forward.