Fabian Pfortmüller on What Makes Leadership Impactful

In Chapter 12 of 19 in his 2011 Capture Your Flag interview, community builder and entrepreneur Fabian Pfortmüller frames impactful leadership as results driven and sustainable.  Fabian notes leadership is not only emotional nor is it temporal.  He shares insight from a friend that we totally overestimate what one can achieve in one year and underestimate what one can achieve in five years.  Pfortmüller is co-founder of Sandbox Network (www.sandbox-network.com).  He also co-founded an innovation think tank, Incubaker (www.incubaker.com), and is part of the group's first spin-off, Holstee (www.holstee.com), an apparel brand for people who would like to wear their passion.  Pfortmüller graduated from Columbia University and its School of General Studies. 


Erik Michielsen: How do you define impactful leadership?

Fabian Pfortmüller: I think there are different levels to that question. The first level that comes to my mind is I believe leadership is impactful if it’s not just about talking but if there’s an end result if there’s a bottom line and I see a lot of leaders who have – who run organizations or projects which are really good in stirring up emotions and getting people excited about something but they don’t get the work done and I believe impactful in the end has to do with getting the work done.

The second aspect of that is… length, is time. I believe impactful has something to do with just keep doing it for a long time and not just do it in one shot. I believe very little impact is done with just doing something once but if you something over a certain period of time and you keep doing it I believe that’s where the real impact comes and I think that’s also important for leaders to drive that and to be the example of that. One friend once told me that you over estimate how much you can get done in one year but you totally underestimate how much you can get done in five years, I think it’s very true, you know?

Impactful leadership has to do with driving the five-year boat not just the one-year project. And I believe in my very personal opinion impactful leadership has to do with realizing and trying to better understand what the larger impact is of what you do, because we all don’t live in a bubble and we all don’t live in a little microcosm, we’re are all somehow connected in the bigger world and so what we do at Holstee or at Sandbox hopefully has ripple effects into third, fourth, fifty degrees and I think leadership requires to… you can’t know that but you can try to understand it and you can try to make sure that all the different stake holders involved are treated fairly in a positive impact.