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Leading with Trust in Others and Yourself The Frank Song Interview

There are a lot of people leaving their jobs or at least considering leaving their jobs to start their own thing.  At some point you made the transition yourself from working for a company to starting your own organization.  How does someone know when it’s time to take the plunge?

For me, it’s simple; when both the cost/benefit analysis and the pro/con table both point to the fact that owning your own organization is a net positive decision. I am not a fan of purely emotional, reckless, or unthoughtful decisions because I became homeless and had a difficult childhood due to people in my life taking the “plunge” with their balls first and brains second.

The point is that you should quantify it. Okay, you hate having a boss, but how much do you hate it?

If you’re going to make the exact same amount of money as you do with your current job, but now, you have more responsibilities because you’re in charge of every department and no guaranteed paycheck – Is it still worth it for you? For some yes, for some no – but you get the point.

Each individual has a different value and weight they give for each pro/con variable. My main advice is just be thoughtful about it.

How many people report to you, or do you lead now in your own organization?

There are 200 people who work for me globally. This is diverse group of individuals and languages in offices internationally.

You’ve been both the apprentice as well as the mentor.  How did being the follower of good leaders prepare you to become the leader yourself?

The one irreplaceable lesson I learned from the leaders in my life was them showing me true standards – that’s something irreplaceable. You cannot learn unless you have the right guidance and have seen it in person. These leaders helped me see what was possible, that I didn’t think was possible before; they helped me understand how to achieve standards I didn’t think were possible when I first started my career.

How has being a leader or a teacher made you a better follower or student yourself?

This is a great question and one that I believe most people misunderstand about being a leader. Being a leader is actually the art and science of being able to listen to your team members’ list of recommended solutions, deciding which is the most plausible, and weighing out the short term and long term effects. You must also take into account which is the most realistic for your team to implement and execute, given your team’s bandwidth, strengths, skill level, etc. Then it’s about letting the person you choose to put in charge to roll it out.

I became a better follower when I saw that when I put someone I could trust in charge, that the building didn’t burn down. Controlling everything can work to maybe $1-$10 million in revenue, but past that, you’ll need to follow the people you trust on your payroll to grow to the $50 million level and beyond, which is another word for delegate.

What were the top one or two things you learned from a leader or mentor that you now try to pass on to those that you lead?

Compassion and kindness go a long way. There are many extremely successful leaders that come to mind from my time working on Wall Street, specifically in investment banking and private equity that showed me that the best leaders genuinely had the best hearts. They showed genuine care and concern for families and operated their team with both compassion and kindness.

What advice do you have to people breaking out on their own, starting their own companies and needing to lead out themselves?

Emotional control is one of the most critical factors to successfully go off on your own. There’s nothing wrong with passion – passion is a key asset to push through hard times, but that passion shouldn’t extend into rational decision making. 90% of success is clearly seeing a situation with a clear mind and clear thoughts, which is hard to do without emotional control in order to make clear decisions. If you make more good decisions than bad ones, you increase your chances of success. If you make more bad decisions than good, you decrease your chances of success – it’s that simple.

How would you explain your leadership style and how might it be unique if at all?

Lead by example – the point of a truly effective leader is showing that something is possible. Of course, some leaders can try to inspire with words, but I’ve seen that have a short term effect, as opposed to proving to your team that it’s possible. When you show your team members that it is physically, mentally, and emotionally possible to achieve, it’s very hard to have an excuse that it can’t be done.

Can anyone be an effective leader or do you believe it’s more of a God-given talent you’re born with?

Anyone can be an effective leader, however, the reason I’ve seen people not become better leaders versus the ones who have, is that it comes down to how you develop any skill- how deep is your motivation to do it? Leadership is one of the easiest skills to learn conceptually, but one of the most complex to implement personally. The reason why it is difficult to implement is because being a truly effective leader means you found the right leadership combination that matches your personal unique characteristics. What works for one person does not work for the other; just as if one musician copying another musician’s successful style doesn’t mean it’ll be their biggest success.

Frank Song has done everything from excelling at one of the world’s top private equity firms that as of today has raised over 10 billion to running his own investment management company with more than 20 million in committed capital to pursue buyouts of businesses in diverse markets.  Mr. Song has contributed capital to companies like Zinc Ahead that sold for 130 million, High Jump that sold for 750 million, and Page Up that sold for an undisclosed amount.  In addition, Frank has close to 400,000 followers on Instagram, has been a strategic resource for numerous politicians, celebrities, high networth individuals and has recently been featured in Forbes in an article titled From Walmart to Wall Street spotlighting his 8-figure business journey.

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