Who's the Boss? Dynamic Leadership Means Finding Each Other's Superpowers
Launching a one-person business from the comfort of your couch requires you to be pretty ambitious and resourceful.
Maybe the better word here is scrappy. (Crazy?)
After all, you’re probably operating as your own HR department, marketing team, and accountant. Not to mention, you’re the creative mastermind delivering the end product or service to clients.
To put it simply: You’re responsible for every role in your new business, all at once.
And this can be a lot of fun. When you love to learn, starting a business opens endless opportunities for continuous personal and professional growth. If you’re like me, it’s exhilarating to nerd out on one or two elements of your business for weeks at a time.
But even if you love the learning experience of launching a business on your own, it’s hard to make time to do the actual work that pays the bills when you're juggling so many responsibilities.
And that’s where the magic of having a partner really becomes obvious.
1 + 1 = infinity
I launched my freelance copywriting business from a small studio apartment in Austin, Texas in 2016. Like many first-time business owners, I was learning everything at once: how to write powerful copy, how to find clients—plus all the basic administrative things like how to create proposals and track expenses.
I loved the work. But on many days I also felt pretty overwhelmed.
As Sarabeth and I started dating that same year, I pulled her into my writing work, occasionally asking for her help with editing when there was too much on my plate.
The delegation was straightforward: I would do the writing. She followed behind as editor to make sure everything was clear, simple, and error-free.
When we got married and she joined me full-time in the business in 2017, delegating some editing work scaled to having equal workload in the business.
But I quickly noticed something peculiar. Delegation didn't just double our business output and daily productivity. The difference of adding one more person to the business made an exponential difference on what we could get done.
Superpowers: The intersection of your weaknesses and your partner’s strengths
Just because you can do everything in the business, doesn’t mean you should. This is the premise of the classic business book, The E-Myth by Michael Gerber: Entrepreneurs should be better delegators.
When you go into business with your partner, delegating the work you're bad at (or hate) can feel like accessing a cheat code or real-life superpower.
For example, one of Sarabeth’s strengths is design. When she creates info-graphics, designs our websites, or does anything else related to visual design—it almost feels to me like I’m cheating the system. Because, frankly, I’m NOT a designer.
If I ran this business on my own, my online presence would be... lacking (to put it kindly). But Sarabeth can swoop in and make professional designs in minutes, making everything we do much more professional.
I believe these intersections of weaknesses and strengths can be found in every relationship. Being curious and attune enough to notice them can revolutionize your business and romantic relationship.
3 steps to drawing out one another’s superpowers
1. Name the superpower
Superpowers can lie dormant when they aren’t noticed or called into action.
When you notice your partner’s superpowers—organization, communication, design, marketing, strategy—it’s important to remember that they don’t always see those skills within themselves, especially when you both are juggling dozens of roles to get a business up and running. It’s not always easy to stop and realize what you’re both doing exceptionally well.
Simple intention to notice each other's strengths makes all the difference.
As you make an effort to notice one another’s strengths, don't keep your findings to yourself. Go out of your way to call them out: “Wow, you designed that? It’s really good!”
2. Communicate roles
Finding strengths doesn’t happen overnight. It may take weeks, months, or even years of working together to notice where each of your individual strengths lie.
As those strengths begin to become obvious, it’s time to delegate.
Sarabeth and I have fresh conversations like this every few months. As we notice that one of us is better at a certain process, we make our lives easier by delegating that portion of the project (or that household responsibility) to the person who enjoys it more or is better at it.
3. Make dynamic leadership the standard
When you work full-time with your spouse, no task is ever performed in a complete silo.
It’s not enough to say, “This task is mine and that one is yours.” Eventually, you’ll need to pull the other in. Both of you will play some role—no matter how minor—in every task in the business.
What you want to avoid is bickering and indecision. If you're both looped in to every project and task, it helps to designate someone as point-person. That’s where leadership should have a dynamic, shifting element.
The business and your relationship isn't hierarchical. But certain responsibilities must be.
Sarabeth is not just our main designer. She is our design lead. That means:
She has final say on designs that we publish as a business
She names the process and timeline for producing designs
She chooses the tools we use so that she can do her best work
She is in charge of creating larger design “rules” for our business
In other words, when it comes to all-things design, Sarabeth is the leader.
But leadership doesn’t take one face in our business. As we shift to different roles in the company, those same leadership characteristics fall to me.
When you run a business with your spouse, it’s good to designate the point-person for certain tasks. This person is in charge of strategy and tends to have final say when it comes to things under their umbrella of responsibility.
One of the best parts of running a business with your partner, is the experience of stumbling upon each other’s hidden superpowers.
The underlying key to this is to never stop being curious about your significant other, because there's always going to be something new to learn about them. As you wake up together each day, remember that the person next to you is a deep, changing, growing person—just like you.
Have fun discovering their superpowers as they help you discover yours.