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This article was published on September 7, 2011

    The difference between a leader and a primus inter pares

    The difference between a leader and a primus inter pares
    Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten
    Story by

    Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten

    Founder & board member, TNW

    Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and pr.co. Boris is very active on Twitter as @Boris and Instagram: @Boris.

    Most startups have a leader. A CEO type, usually the founding entrepreneur, who leads his pack of hungry wolves from concept to IPO. A driven manager, organizational wizard and decision maker.

    It is a role that is important but undefined. Entrepreneurs have their own ways of filling in those roles. Some entrepreneurs lead by example. Others gently guide their partners and try to get out of their way when possible. Even others reign over their companies like dictators and take Steve Jobs as an example in leading over their disciples.

    So what kind of entrepreneur/leader are you? What role fits your character?

    As I said earlier, there is no fixed formula for the ideal CEO. I do think however that one needs to be a primus inter pares. Or ‘First Among Equals’.

    One rule of management is to always hire people who are better than you are at what they do. That also means you can’t be a leader who thinks he is better than everybody else. If that would be the case you would’ve hired the wrong people.

    I like to think of all the people who work at our companies as partners instead of employees. When people say “I work for Boris” I cringe. I feel proud on the one hand but also awkward about it. I would rather have them consider themselves equals, or even better, than me.

    My goal as an employer, ceo, founding entrepreneur is not to reign but to be the primus inter pares among my employees. Leading a company isn’t so much about being the boss but about performing one single aspect of what needs to be done.

    What kind of leader do you want to be?

    Photo credit: EDHAR via Shutterstock.