With risks of a new pandemic wave in the news, it's worth a reminder that entrepreneurial leaders — such as agency owners — need to master the art of having two brains running in parallel.

One brain needs to be scanning ahead for problems, thinking of the bad things that could happen and preparing for them. As Andy Grove, the entrepreneur who built Intel, famously said: "Only the paranoid survive."

But that's only half the story. The other brain needed is the optimistic, positive, vision-of-success mode of thinking. It's equally as important. You need to show your team and your clients the amazing future ahead, and get people fired up about getting there.

Only having one of these modes of thinking is a recipe for trouble — you either end up bogged down in worry, negativity and inaction, or you end up foolishly cheerleading the company off a cliff because 'something's bound to come up!' and you had no plan B for when it didn't.

The two brains together transform basic pessimism or optimism into hope: "Yes, there will be obstacles ahead, and we've planned for those — but here's how we can succeed, and this is what we need to do. We can do it."

It's the style of leadership that brought Barack Obama electoral success, even when the world seemed so problematic. He didn't just wallow in the problems, or pretend that everything was rosy — he explained the problems, but then showed a possible path through them. "Yes we can."

So the key is balance. Think of what could go wrong and prepare for some tough challenges, facing up to any harsh realities — but then look for the opportunities that come from problems, nurture excitement about the future, and build a story of hope about what is possible.

(Related to this is my previous post on Good leaders, Bad news)

This is the job of an entrepreneurial leader. It's not easy, but that's what makes you special.

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This week I've absolutely loved listening to the podcast series Honey I Blew Up The Business, with Dan Kirby and guests talking really honestly about times they screwed up. It's a series of really laid back, frank conversations with no ego and no false modesty — just raw tales of what it's really like in the ups and downs of building businesses.

Remember to subscribe to the Convivio Agency Leaders podcast too.

Things I've been reading this week:


If you run an agency that's somewhere on the journey between 10 and 30 staff, you need to read up on our Step-up programme. We'll provide you with a framework to navigate this particularly tricky growth stage — and you'll join a cohort of 3 fellow agency owners on the same journey, to be each others' virtual board. Along with the support of the Convivio team (including me), and some external coaches and agency leaders, this'll give you everything you need to know what to do, and to actually do it.

We launch 'Cohort Zero' of this programme in January, to pilot the programme, and if you join this you'll get early access, a substantial discount, and I'll personally support you through the programme. Find out more about joining Cohort Zero.


Find this newsletter useful or inspiring for kicking your week off? I'd love it if you'd forward it to other agency leaders you think would benefit too. Thanks.