Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Importance of Leadership

Entrepreneurial Leadership? Bring it.

Class 2 during my crazy spring semester this year was all about leadership, and how important it is to understand what "leadership" really means. It's about accountability, honesty, responsibility, and my favorite quote, "take blame, give credit". It is not about power, or telling people what to do. You have to inspire your employees, work with them and understand how to negotiate.

Our first project was to create a company based around a toy. As the artist in the group, I was stoked. My team members and CEO made it clear that they wanted something really simple; a stuffed animal. But that's boring, so I spent hours trying to conceptualize something with more of a twist. I came up with what ended up being called the "Cudlee", in which I combined a stuffed animal, pillow, and carrying case into one item. The billowy arm of the bear reaches across to reveal a pouch that's kept closed with velcro. (I'm also very sorry to say that yes, there was one teddy bear harmed in this process. But he was only $1 at the dollar store, and I made him into something even better!) I used a soft soft fleece and the bear was also soft to the touch.

It was a hit with its unisex and poppy colors. (I also embroidered a little tag, and sewed it on the lower right of the pillow, of our "company's" logo!) The little Tufts people lost their damn minds, and it was fantastic. ("How did you DO that?" - umm, a sewing machine? With 10+ years experience?) It was one of the moments I had where I felt that I did belong there, that even though I wasn't an engineer, I had skills that were valuable. My experience gave me a bit of a real-world edge over my highly intelligent tufts counterparts. Ha.

Then I was selected as CEO for the next team. I had to lead one girl and three guys in a project. Not to be sexist, but the guys were sooo much work - they had to be constantly reminded to meet deadlines, and I had to nag them when they did not. I set deadlines, kept us organized, and REFUSED to pull a last-minute all nighter, which they resented at the time but all said how it paid off in the end not being stressed out (gee, what a novel concept?) We made it through the project successfully, and I was very proud of all of them.

It's one of the issues I think is so difficult to reconcile; being a woman of power in a male situation, like giving orders without being "naggy", or for lack of a better word, "bitchy". When I found myself having to speak to them, I tried not to make it about "me" wanting it done, and made it about doing it for the "team".

I'm writing about this experience now because my professor was such a great teacher to me, and I ran into him at work the other day. He continues to offer his help in my job search, and even asked my opinion on some mock up logos he had hired out for (don't even get me started on those - NOT GOOD).

So, this may be an item that I will offer in the future - I'm looking into patents, as I've already gotten a lot of interest in it :) Stay tuned -

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