Celebrating a Management Style

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An entrepreneur is the one in the room, in an organization or in the whole world who sees a vision of how things can and should be.  Whether that vision is flying cars or better lube jobs, online cooking classes or better pies, fungus resistant plants or better garden maintenance, you are the one who understands the goal, sees the objective, and has the desire and motivation to reach it.   How do you get there from here?  You have to inspire and lead people to help you reach that objective.  It isn’t a popularity contest for sure.  Rather, it is the ability to lead so that people will follow. Important lessons can be learned about management from a recent crisis that has rocked not a startup, but a historic institution.   

A woman and her management style has inspired thousands of people to protest her ouster. Her name is Teresa Sullivan, and she was the President of the University of Virginia, not an entrepreneurial institution, but a public university founded in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson. After less than two years, the Board of Visitors (or board of directors) fired her.  The resulting outrage from faculty, administration, students and alumni has been so dramatic that thousands of screaming supporters filled the lawn to protest the decision and the Governor of Virginia has been forced into the fray.

Examples of management rules that helped her garner that level of support in less than two years include 1) never punish the messenger and 2) don’t hide bad news, but meet it head-on. Or, in short, face facts and deal with them.  Those a great lessons for startup managers.  

If the product doesn’t work, the market doesn’t like it, the sales team can’t sell it, the quality control mechanism isn’t working, the goals are unreachable, the vendors are delayed, customers are unhappy, products have gone missing, there’s a political battle between organizations, or the revenue isn’t coming in, don’t close your eyes or hold your hands over your ears.  There’s a problem and it won’t go away if you ignore it.  A leader has to meet the news head on and deal with it.  Rejoice that someone has discovered the problem and had the foresight to deliver the news to you before things got worse.  Problems are inevitable, and fortunately it gets easier to face and deal with them as you gain experience.

Due to the response of those she has lead, the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia will now decide whether to reinstate Teresa Sullivan, and either way, she will face the situation and deal with it head on.  That’s the kind of manager she is.

All the best,

Amanda Weathersby


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