Super Cities №110 - Leaders and Founders, Opinions and Data

Brendan Hart

“If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.” ― Jim Barksdale, CEO of Netscape

A successful leader should have strong opinions about the world and her industry.

However, a great leader has strong opinions which are weakly held.

When presented with new and better information — data — the great leader will eagerly and enthusiastically change her once-strongly held opinion.

This change doesn’t happen naturally. It takes humility and mental flexibility.

That’s why it is hard for most young leaders, including many founders.

All companies start with an idea — a strongly-held opinion. Those opinions are almost always wrong.

It turns out people like red better than blue, up better than down, or peanut butter better than jelly.

The most important thing is what happens next.

The inexperienced founder sticks with her original opinion, regardless of feedback or failure, and over time intentionally seeks out people who reinforce her views.

In other words, her subjective opinion is more powerful than objective information.

The great founder realizes her opinion is merely a starting point. From there, she sets out to test, learn, and improve that opinion.

To test whether you would be a great founder, ask yourself this question: what information would you need to change your mind?

If you cannot answer that question, you may want to consider holding your opinion more weakly.

If you need help in that process, give me a shout.

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