And it is this simple maxim:
If you want to be leader of many, then you must first be faithful with few.
One of the most important sentences leadership sentences we don't hear enough. And it matters in all walks of life and business regardless of our ambitions. The picture in this post of the small tables is from an after dinner talk I (Steve) did once at local Rotary Club - one of my early speeches. My biggest crowd now is over 10,000 people. Tommy started doing creative for small local businesses and building small websites. His since done campaigns for some of the world's biggest and coolest brands including Amazon and Porsche.
For more than 10 years I did unpaid speaking with tiny audiences… that is, the few people who had enough faith in me to give me their time so we could both have a valuable exchange. If it wasn’t for this, then I’d never be able to present in . But on the flip side, we should never forget the few, even if we have the attention of the many.
It raises a few question of how we might behave in a startup:
Do you love the customers you do have? Are you faithful with those who gave you a try before you have any scale? And if you have many followers, do you still take the time to reply to the few who reach out? Do you still support the low profile few who made what you do possible, or just gravitate to the high profile few who you now have access to?
An easy way to test this is to tweet a famous person or brand and see if they respond. If they don’t, then they should be clear they won’t on their profile. I’m not saying every web tool can scale, I’m just saying we should be clear with our audience on what to expect. If you think it isn’t possible, I can tell you that Seth Godin still answers every email himself (he doesn’t tweet). I can also tell you that Cory Doctorow advises in his twitter profile of better ways to reach him. I can also tell you that Skype answers every tweet you send to them.
In the end leadership is about giving thanks and paying homage to the trust you’ve been granted by those prepared to take the journey with you, from the start. But it’s also about not be too ‘big’ to engage with those who helped you get there once you’ve arrived. It’s not easy, but the real job of leaders in the pre and post success era is to bethink both the few, and the many.