June 25, 2013
10 Lessons For Two Types Of Startup Leaders

Startups in every sector—from technology to manufacturing, from services to software—are founded by two kinds of leaders: the Artist and the Entrepreneur.

These two kinds of leaders have much in common, and also profound differences. Artist Leaders delight in expressive, creative work. They make things based on imagination and strive for hand-tooled excellence. Entrepreneur Leaders find joy in solving puzzles to bring innovations, services and products to market. They make things based on identifying market needs and filling them.

For example, Steve Jobs was an Artist Leader; Bill Gates is an Entrepreneur Leader. Sergey Brin is an Artist Leader, Mark Zuckerberg is an Entrepreneur Leader.

While these two leadership styles have their differences, they are very much complementary. As Entrepreneur Leaders become more artistic, and Artist Leaders become more entrepreneurial, there will be a healthier intersection of commerce and creativity, and many more successful businesses.

Here are 10 important lessons Entrepreneur Leaders and Artist Leaders can share with each other—and, in the process, strengthen their creative power and business acumen.

1. It’s all up to you.

There’s no publisher, distributor, promoter or agent who will do it for you. You have to do it yourself. Entrepreneurs “bootstrap” their new ideas until they can be tangible. Authors set up their own book tours and come up with their own promotional ideas. Filmmakers distribute their own films and make their own YouTube channels. Musicians have been way ahead of the curve on this one—they have always kept good track of their fan lists.

2. But you are not alone.

There was a time when you may have felt frustrated because you didn’t have every skill for success. Today, nobody expects that of you. Instead, collaboration shows your maturity. It’s become common practice to hire smart people to help you out; it shows how smart you are.

3. It’s okay to invest your own money.

While you are developing your ideas or product, the work is not wholly formed and hard to communicate. At this stage, if you don’t believe in your work, no one else will. Creative work often costs far less than entrepreneurial efforts, so artists are advantaged on this point. But entrepreneurs are learning how to do far more with far less. Here’s the biggest benefit of self-investment: you keep your intellectual property rights.

4. Because it’s not about getting the money.

Instead, it’s about creating value, or the probability of value. Now you’re ready to launch. You need funds to ramp up your new venture or to make your creative project. Your focus should be on proving how much value your venture or creative project will have; then you’ll find your money.

5. You don’t need a big corporation.

Big corporate structures are fine for some things—they can spend $100 million on marketing. But they are slow and, by nature, conservative. Artists and entrepreneurs are fast and risk-prone. You’ll have much more fun.

6. You can do it better than a big corporation because you are more focused, more involved and more nimble.

Yes, you are. Big innovations and big creative leaps don’t come from big companies. They come from dedicated, scrappy people working outside of large structures.

7. Your real market is your audience.

Your market (or your audience) is not your distributor or your retailer. Big companies think of the middleman as their market. They make widgets to sell to Walmart, or movies to sell to theatre chains. However, your audience is your true market – in the language of technology, it’s all about the end-user. Don’t make things so Walmart will buy them. Make things so people will buy them, and then Walmart will follow.

8. You have to reinvent yourself before you invent your next project.

As a creative and entrepreneurial person, you don’t like to repeat yourself. You’ll get bored if you have to climb the same mountain. So you continually train, learn, make, re-make, destroy and start over. Because next time, you want your experience to be different, and better.

9. Promoting yourself and your work comes with the territory—and it can be fun.

You need to get over your shyness and insecurity, and feel comfortable talking about yourself and your work. For many people, this is a hard one to overcome, especially because we live in a society where so much criticism is thoughtless and cheap. But if you come out of hiding, you will discover that even though selling your work yourself is a necessity, it is also a fulfilling experience.

10. If there’s no passion, you shouldn’t be doing it.

If you don’t know this already, you’re not an artist or an entrepreneur.

If you clear away the brush, you’ll be able to see the trail. While the path may not be easy—in fact, life pretty much guarantees that nothing worth doing is ever easy—you’ll find that the steps can become clear.

You distinguish yourself by being willing to do the work and take the steps. The next mountaintop awaits you. I know you’ll enjoy the view.

Adam Leipzig
Adam Leipzig is the CEO of Entertainment Media Partners, the former President of National Geographic Films, and a former Senior VP of Walt Disney Studios. He is on the faculty of the Haas School of Executive Education at UC Berkeley, the publisher of the popular digital magazine Cultural Weekly, and the author of a new highly -acclaimed book for independent filmmakers.

Other Articles by Adam Leipzig:

5 Lessons On Leadership From A Hollywood Producer

Why CEOs Should Try Serving Veggie Burgers

What ‘March Of The Penguins’ Taught Me About Success & Risk