Browse Categories

Success Beyond Your Shadow by Dave LaRue

They say the perception of time is subjective. When you’re waiting for a flight with an unspecified delay, (or you’re waiting for Christmas when you’re 9 years old) time drags. When you’re enjoying yourself, time flies. I feel a lot of resonance with the saying, “The days are long, but the years are short.”

Even when you organize efforts and plumb your energy through goals and habits and pay as much attention to your life as we do in the Comma Club, you’ve probably noticed that in the intricate dance of business and growth, time still slips away. It's a fascinating journey, weaving together human behavior, nuances of leadership, and the dynamics of teamwork and cross-organizational collaboration. I’ve been thinking a lot about collaboration lately and had some brief thoughts I wanted to share.

In our businesses, entrepreneur-leaders are always at first the brightest lights that illuminate the path to success. Their hands-on leadership is pivotal, and their thinking and their example set the tone for understanding your clients and delivering for them and key strategies for your products or services. Their direct influence contributes strong intuition for your competitive space, and experience with how best to overcome challenges and reach new heights. But, as we have discussed so much, there comes a time when that illumination has to take on a different character to let the business grow to the next level. New structures are required to move that light, and, just as with personal growth, as businesses evolve, a strategic pause is necessary.

It’s a pause to reflect on routines and team dynamics. To understand that what brought success in the past may hold currency now, or that the obstacles between this level and the next are of a different sort than the ones that were overcome to get to this one. Clarity of vision is paramount. No matter what, if growth means operating in a new macroeconomic environment, solving different problems—or solving them in new ways with new systems and tools—or, as is increasingly common, with new business models or lines of business, it usually means that the entrepreneurial leader needs to change their image of how they lead. They need to reimagine how their influence can spread in new ways, through and among new people—or trusted people in new roles or with new responsibilities—and how the creation of the company vision can include the input and feedback of more and more people and perspectives.

In the evolution of each business, the significance of collaborative leadership cannot be overstated. It goes beyond comprehending the big picture; it's about cultivating a unique collaborative ecosystem tailored to your individual business landscape. Your leadership is still a guiding force, and it may still be the ultimate force—and the loudest voice—but you’re no longer hands-on with everything. You learn how to invest your intention in who and how you hire and delegate. You reimagine how progress is tracked and success is defined for individuals, teams, and the company as a whole.

There’s a feeling that many entrepreneur-leaders can relate to: “this thing is getting too big for me to control.” This is an awareness to lean into. The bigger a company gets, the more it must function as an organization and less like a group of people following your direct orders and example. Making this transition is demanding and can be a stumbling block. It’s a prime moment to take a reflective pause.

All the companies whose success we compare ours to are run as organizations. They create guardrails and guidelines so people can act with a reasonable level of autonomy without undue risk. They have structures and policies and systems that set expectations and handle accountability in a way that satisfies even the most shrewd investors. Although they can be inspiring, the heroic, cult-of-personality stories we read about legendary executives lend the wrong impression: there are no Fortune 100 companies where all accomplishment can be ascribed to the brilliance of one person at the top. Look into the management methods of Amazon, systematically designed to allow decisions to happen.They have a rigorous and heavily reinforced set of leadership principles that are expected to serve as the ultimate rationale for all choices. Are you being “customer-obssessed?” are you acting like “leaders are owners?”are you “thinking big?” These are not just words there. They are truly expected to be understood and used.
And their leaders are actually given agency: each level of leadership can approve expenses an order of magnitude higher than the one below. The responsible leader follows a RACI chart and informs and consults who they’re supposed to, gets input and feedback they deem helpful, then the decision is made—and they answer for the results.

So many companies stuck at a plateau are held back because those who are used to making the decisions don’t believe their direct reports could make high-quality decisions. They don’t believe it’s possible to set expectations, or align everyone to guidelines or hold people accountable in a way that’s as satisfying and secure-seeming as being involved in all decisions or making them yourself. But it is. These skills are what companies must master to grow in size and complexity, and fundamentally, these skills are where the battle is won and lost between two competitors with similar products: how do they function as an organization? I see this so often that I want to say it succinctly: just because it feels safer to retain hands-on control doesn’t mean it’s the right approach to take. It just means you’ve reached the limit of your comfort zone. Great things—and unbelievable growth lie outside that ultimately arbitrary zone.

I’m so lucky to be reminded so often that success isn't just about individual achievements; it's about the force multiplication that occurs when every team member contributes to the collective triumph. Prioritizing personal control over collective goals or avoiding adult conversations hinders progress. If you see these behaviors in others, you know where progress starts. If you sense these in yourself, be relieved: you’re a mindset shift away from a whole new level of results. You can always learn to open up more to co-creating the vision.
Co-creating the company's vision aligns the team, eliminates excuses, and leverages individual strengths. As you reflect on your business journey, consider your ideal clients, team qualities, and the evolving landscape. Who should be included in that conversation? How best can you gather those perspectives? What will allow you to perform the alchemy that turns all those perspectives into insights? How can you turn those insights into a vision, a direction, and back down into directives to the front line?

Success, in its essence, starts with truth. Adult conversations, receptiveness to improvement, and acknowledging contributions are the foundations of successful leadership. In closing, consider the small, intentional steps to nurture these habits within your team and propel your shared vision forward. 

I love the habit of some of the best leaders finding and acknowledging their associates doing something right. What can you do to take that one step further and to create an environment where you can rely on your people to do more for the company without your daily involvement? Think: what would you need to be comfortable with that? What would that look like for real?
Wishing you continued success in steering your business toward new horizons.




2024 2023
December November October September August July June May April March February January
December November October September August July June May April March February January
December November October September August July June May April March February January
December November October September August July June May April March February January
December November October September August July June May April March February January
December November October September August July June May April March February January
December November October September August July June May April March February January
2016 2015 2014 2013