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The Leader, the Empresaria and the Artist

Yesterday, I was discussing with one of the users of what I've built as to the importance of a feature that is yet to be built. While I was of the opinion that it would be something good to have, she was of the opinion that it would be a deal breaker for using the product itself.

When creating or designing something to be consumed by others, I often end up in this situation. There are two primary concerns for someone shipping out their product. One, is it something that they believe will make a difference to the consumers in the way they want it to? Is it something that will make a dent in the Universe as they see it? Two, is it something that the target audience is looking forward to using? Is it something that fits into the worldview of the target audience?

For the answer to the first question to be a yes, what is being created ought to fit well into the worldview of the creator. And for the answer to the second question to be a yes, what is being created ought to fit well into the worldview of the consumer. And they are usually mutually exclusive. In the sense that the answer to one doesn't depend on the answer to the other.

If the answer to both is 'No', then that idea dies almost as soon as it is formed. Nobody in their right mind will try to execute and ship something that neither they believe in nor their intended customers care for. A creator doing this is a fool.

If the answer to one is 'No' and to two is 'Yes', the creator is shipping her product for reasons that do not involve words like vision, making a difference, etc. She is probably shipping her product as a way of making a living, of pleasing investors, and the like. A creator doing this is an empresaria (a businesswoman).

If the answer to one is 'Yes' and to two is 'No', the creator is shipping her product purely with the intention of following through on her beliefs, and not paying attention to the monetary returns that might come out of doing this. She is willing to put her own career and financials at risk to follow through on her vision for the world. Such a creator is an artist.

If the answer to both the questions are 'Yes', then the creator is one with the target audience and has likely risen up from among the target audience to solve a problem that she faced while being a part of the group. She creates things not with a larger vision or with eyes on financial returns, but to solve a problem that she is facing, and knows that her tribe is facing. Such a creator is a leader.

In a product organization, you need everyone other than the fool (nobody needs the fool).

The job of the artist is to have very strong opinions on how the world (the world will have different definitions for each organization) ought to be shaped and build things to do that shaping. The artist doesn't care about failures as she keeps trying out new ways of shaping the world until she succeeds. The artist is driven by witnessing the difference she makes in the world, and has the tough job of changing the behaviour and the worldview of her consumers. The artist's work is always recognised with a delay - as the impact takes time to materialise.

The job of the leader is to immerse herself among the consumers and internalize the problems they face and solve them on their behalf. The leader is like a war strategist, whose ideas when executed show immediate results.

The job of the empresaria is to build upon the work of the leader and ensure that it is monetized and the coffers of the company are constantly being filled as a result. The empresaria is usually the executor as she has little personal attachment with the workings of the product being shipped and only worries about the consequences (the financial returns, the increase in market share, etc).

At the time of starting up, a company needs a leader to identify and solve an immediate problem. It then needs an empresaria to scale that solution and transform it into a profitable business model. It then needs an artist to build things to ensure the company stays relevant years into the future, while the leader and the empresaria continue playing their roles.

When an organization fails at any point, it is because it has the wrong kind of a creator (or the wrong mix of creators) at it's helm. The job of the CEO is to foster the right mix of creators.

Back to my discussion yesterday, I was probably looking at it too much with an artist's hat and ought to have looked at it with a leader's hat and an empresaria's hat as well.

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