We are living in a time like no other before it—a time of tremendous change and infinite possibilities. One that will see creative innovators boldly face the numerous challenges that arise.
As we move forward into this new frontier, the ability of these creative innovators to lead the way as they forge ahead has never been more vital. In light of this, it should come as no surprise that leadership is a key subject that we love to focus on during our podcast interviews—gleaning priceless wisdom and insider insights from the top experts in the industry today who are practicing what they preach.
We’ve gathered some of our highlights from Season 3 of our podcast—covering the importance of leadership and how to develop leadership skills—to inspire and motivate you on your journey forward.
Kimberly Reed—Find Great Mentors
Among our season three guests was Kimberly Reed, Former Chairman of the Board of Directors, President and CEO at the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM). She shared some excellent advice for those just starting out. Kimberly explained some fundamental basics: Be willing to work hard and know your substance. As well, she said to come to terms with the reality that it’s not all about you (nor should it be). A leader should ask themselves:
“What do I have to offer to help this organization be more successful?”
Once you’ve answered that question and are on your road to fulfilling it, Kimberly shared the great importance of mentorship along the way. “Find great mentors and sponsors, as we call them, people who believe in you [and] want to be invested in you and teach you those skills.”
Also, according to Kimberly, it’s essential to stay self-aware, particularly when it comes to seeing and understanding how your team views you as a leader and in recognizing what you can do to be better.
Ethan Batraski—The Role of a Great Product Leader
Another guest we were thrilled to host on the podcast was product leader extraordinaire Ethan Batraski, whose official title is Partner at Venrock. Ethan joined us on our podcast to share some insights regarding the importance of being a great product leader.
According to Ethan, great product leaders realize that their primary responsibility is to make the problem very clear and very finite and then evangelize as to why this problem is the one that’s worth solving.
“Ultimately, a product leader’s job is to help set the north star, prioritize, and make the tradeoffs because we know that we have limited resources and limited time,” shared Ethan. “It’s about driving the biggest business outcomes and impact in solving important, interesting problems for our customers.” He is careful to add, “That problem always has to be very customer-centric to who you’re solving it for.”
Empathy is a soft skill of many great leaders, and by taking this approach, Ethan shared how he creates empathy while answering the (for) who, (for) what, and why you are solving the problem. “By being this very problem-focused centric product organization and engineering organization, one, it created empathy to who we were solving, what we were solving, [and] why we were solving it for them. And it allowed both product and engineering to feel closer— why we’re doing something and what is the definition of ‘done,’ because if it doesn’t solve the problem, then we shouldn’t be doing it in the way that we’re doing it.”
Alex Frommeyer—It’s All About People
A final podcast guest—whose insights were so fantastic we knew we had to include them in this highlight article—was Alex Frommeyer. Alex is CEO at Beam Dental, the first and only digitally native dental insurance company. Alex did not mince words when he stated that being an entrepreneur of a fast-growing company is all about people.
Alex shared how he learned this truth pretty early on after realizing his false perceptions at the very start: “When [my team] started Beam … we saw technical risk and technical challenge as the difference between success and failure. Only later was it super obvious … once we started raising money and building teams and having a real business behind the product, then you’re like, oh, man, now I get it. It really is all about the people.”
And when you don’t have the right people and leaders who can lead and attract more of it? “If you don’t have that talent, you’ll struggle to grow anything beyond a core group of people that resonate with a technical challenge or a particular project.”
Also invaluable for an entrepreneur looking to lead his company further up the ladder of success is a clear vision for the future. It requires proper planning, long-term thinking, and no small boxes to confine your brand within. “We realized that two things needed to happen: [We] needed to find a venture capital firm to partner with to give us the capital to be able to look further down field than three weeks [and] ‘Where’s lunch going to come from?’ [scarcity mindset].”
To hear these three podcasts and many more from Fast Frontiers season 3, head over to our podcast and choose the topic(s) that speak to you the most. We guarantee you’ll be glad you did.