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Leadership Lab

Leadership Limelight: Larry Kim

Leadership Limelight is a bi-weekly series that shares insight from leaders in Boston with the startup community. This week, we spoke to Larry KimWordStream’s Founder and Chief Technology Officer.

Larry founded WordStream in 2007 and secured a Series A venture capital investment from Sigma Partners in August 2008. In September 2008, he stepped down as company president and CEO to focus on marketing and product management. Larry is currently responsible for defining WordStream’s product direction and features.

What was your first job?

Newspaper delivery kid.

Any hidden talents?

Tons! I’m an expert drone pilot. Fluent in French. Have perfect pitch. Finished Candy Crush twice.

What’s the best leadership advice you’ve ever received?

That leaders must be very intentional about projecting the values you wish to be adopted at your company. The values you exhibit to your employees have a funny way of compounding themselves, in either a positive or negative way.

You emphasized the importance of optimism in a recent post. When has this served you as a leader?

Two big challenges faced by early stage start-ups are (a) convincing people to quit their jobs and join your team (b) convincing investors to give you money. Both require very convincing projection of optimism and confidence about your vision for the future.

From the outside, you seem to be one of the most productive leaders around — you’re a prolific writer, you’re generous in sharing your knowledge and advice with others, and you’re building a thriving company. How do you balance ‘doing’ with ‘leading’ your team?

Well it’s not like these are totally different activities. There are some strong synergies here: the stuff I blog about are merely observations and learnings from doing stuff.

With so much on your plate, how do you prevent burnout?

Burn out is sad and avoidable. The cause of burn-out is often micro-management and an unwillingness to let go. The cure for micro-management is to delegate, for example: I have a capable executive team, an assistant who helps me with email and scheduling, a nanny who helps out at home, a personal driver (Uber), etc.

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