Over the past year, we have quadrupled the size of our team at Unreasonable. Throughout the process, I’ve had to stumble through the uncomfortable and sometimes awkward transition of going from startup entrepreneur to CEO of a small yet rapidly scaling team.
A north star for me on this journey, though, came from a simple conversation I shared back in 2013 with one of our Unreasonable mentors, Kamran Elahian. Almost four years later, that one conversation has helped me immensely, and it forever redefined my posture toward being both an entrepreneur and a CEO. I wanted to take a few minutes to open-source Kamran’s wisdom in the hopes that it is helpful to other entrepreneurs beyond myself.
The real goal of world-changing entrepreneurs is not to be the quarterback, but rather the coach of the team that wins the Super Bowl. Tweet This Quote
For context, Kamran is a serial entrepreneur who has co-founded three companies that were each, at one time or another, valued at over a billion dollars. In short, his wisdom comes not from books or conversations, but experience. When I asked him what the secret was to his incredible success, he turned to an analogy.
Most entrepreneurs, he said, think the ultimate goal – to use an American football analogy – is to be the quarterback of the team that wins the Super Bowl. As the quarterback, nothing happens until you snap the ball. You call all the plays, and you are on the field and in the game, day in and day out with your teammates. As a quarterback, your goal is to simply be the best quarterback in the world.
This may be true in a startup environment when you have a team of 1-5 people. But Kamran believes (and I agree) that you can never scale this posture of leadership. The entire team, or in this case the whole company, remains bottlenecked by your need to call the plays and snap the ball. Nothing happens until you do.
Strive to have a team in which every player on the field is better at their particular position than you. Tweet This Quote
Kamran went on to describe that the real goal of world-changing entrepreneurs is not to be the quarterback, but rather the coach of the team that wins the Super Bowl. As a coach, you have the following three jobs:
- Recruit the best possible players you can afford, and put them into the positions they are best at.
- Create a culture upon which the individuals achieve things they never thought were possible.
- Most notably, create a culture where the whole of the individuals on the team is far greater than the sum of the parts. In other words, your goal is to be a CEO that creates a culture that rivals that of the Mighty Ducks. .
As the coach, you should strive to have a team in which every player on the field is better at their particular position than you are. From there, your job is to ensure they are supported, inspired, and unified around a shared vision and strategy.
As an entrepreneur, your job is to ensure your team is supported, inspired, and unified around a shared vision and strategy. Tweet This Quote
This simple analogy, on the spot, changed my posture towards entrepreneuring and leadership. As entrepreneurs, our goal is not to be the quarterback of the football team that wins the Super Bowl. Instead, it is to become the best coach in the league for the team that you serve.
Kamran, I don’t know if I ever shared with you how much your wisdom here helped me. So with that, I’ll end with gratitude for your continued friendship and mentorship.