Fabian Pfortmüller on What It Means to Be a Leader

In Chapter 5 of 15 in his 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, community builder and entrepreneur Fabian Pfortmüller answers "What Does It Mean to Be a Leader in What You Do?"  Pfortmüller shares his leadership learning journey, including taking responsibility, living values, staying focused on goals.  Pfortmüller is co-founder of the young leader accelerator, Sandbox Network, and HOLSTEE, an apparel and design firm that sells meaningful products to mindful shoppers.  Pfortmüller graduated from Columbia University and its school of General Studies. 


Erik Michielsen: What does it mean to be a leader in what you do?

Fabian Pfortmüller: The honest answer is, I'm still trying to figure it out myself. I go through waves. Sometimes I believe I totally figured it out and sometimes I wake up and I realize I really don’t know what it means in the first place. There are certain parts of it that I understand more and more as I become older. One of them is for example taking responsibility for things you start.

So, if something bad happens, if we screw up, I think it’s my responsibility to deal with it. I think that’s what it means to be a leader. On the other hand, I also believe that it has a lot to do with example. It’s -- If energy is low, it’s my role to have high energy and like bring good motivation, good energy back into the team. The same goes for values.

I strongly feel that values are something that are very easily lived in good times but they’re tough in hard times and I think it makes a leader to live values and enforce values when it’s maybe not that easy to live by them and for us at HOLSTEE over the last year we were faced with -- We had very strong growth and we were asked, you know, do you wanna like use a printer that is gonna scale up much faster and maybe use this cheaper paper but, you know, in those moments we’re like, actually we should remind ourselves of what we believe in.

You wanna have like, wanna create sustainable products, wanna create products that have a positive impact for the people that make them, we don’t just wanna scale up and so in those moments, I feel like those decisions they’re about leadership, I believe.