HOW TO SCALE: The Problem with Personality Leadership

A lot of great entrepreneurs are essentially unicorns. 

Smart, creative, high energy, enormous drive, and the ability to move people—they are not your average anything.  They can withstand the pressure and risks associated with starting a business and they have the smarts and willpower to run one. 

These “Personality Leaders” win because THEY can do things that other people can’t.  And that’s what gets them into trouble.

If you have a ton of energy, you never have to become efficient.

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If your personality is enough to keep people active and productive, you don’t HAVE to learn about systems and processes.

If you have an amazing mind that can solve a lot of hard problems really fast AND you kind of like doing it, you aren’t as worried about preventing them. 

Personality leadersrely heavily on their own relationships, charisma, and will to produce results.  They do things that no one else can.  They have unique skill sets and abilities that are hard to copy.  They are special.

But special is hard to teach. 

Special is hard to duplicate. 

And special runs out. 

Special can help you start a business and grow one.  But once you hit a certain size, there won’t be enough special to go around.  This kind of leadership stops working because no matter how hard you work, there’s just no way to keep up.

Five Signs You’re a Personality Leader:

  1. Things happen when you’re around...but not as much or as well when you aren’t.  It’s hard to ever really take time off.
  2. People don’t “step up” even though you keep asking them to and urging them to and demanding they do. 
  3. People keep asking for your input, permission or decision about small stuff they can and should be able to handle on their own.  
  4. You have conflict that never quite boils over but also never quite gets resolved.  You get stuck playing the referee and being the one they vent and complain to.
  5. You try to delegate but feel like you have to stay on top of people all the time in order to get them to actually finish anything or do it right.

It’s o.k. to lead by personality.  It’s just hard.  And it doesn’t scale.  You end up with a team of minions who bring who bring you problems and relay decisions, glorified secretaries with executive salaries. 

Great organizations don’t depend on a single superstar.  They have good management processes that someone else can learn and lead. 

If you tend to lead by personality, the best thing you can do for your organization is to change your focus from solving problems to building processes and people.  Learn to:

  • Train people.  Other people CAN do it...IF you actually train them.  Training, especially with your management team, means helping people learn not just WHAT to do, but HOW TO THINK.
  • Make clear expectations and agreements.  Don’t make people read your mind.  Take the time to explain your expectations and preferences.  If they have to guess they’ll guess wrong.
  •  Write stuff down.  Simple plans, WITH DATES AND DEADLINES, can change everything.  Simple training documents—even one page, can help immensely. 
  • Actively Manage.  Management is not an all or nothing job.  You don’t have to “trust people” and you shouldn’t micromanage them.  Active Management means knowing WHAT people are supposed to do and HOW they’re planning on getting it done.  It means monitoring progress, providing accountability and support.  
  • Define Roles, Responsibilities, & Results.  Start small, with a couple of your key people.  Think about what you want them to own and produce.  Define the game and how you expect them to win.  And then help them do it.


It’s not a small thing to transition from leading by personality to leading by process.  It’s not a thing you can do alone.  It’s a shift in the work culture of your whole team.  And it doesn’t happen overnight. 

But if you begin thinking about management as a process that you can capture and teach to someone else, if you change your focus to building the organization and building people, you won’t just be solving today’s problems.  You’ll be building something great that can be great long after you leave.

Wondering how to build processes that make it easier for your people to win? 

Check out Part II.  It includes detailed instructions for how to think through the different parts of your organization, figure out what you need and where to start.  Get the download HERE.

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About the Author:  Alecia Huck is a hard person to find and a good person to know.  She specializes in working with fast-growth companies and entrepreneurs that need to build structure but don't want to "go corporate."  Also, she is awesome.

Find out more HERE or contact Alecia directly at