The path toward leadership is often a jagged trail where steeps and valleys outnumber straightforward routes toward an ultimate goal. For Kit Mueller, co-founder of East Liberty-based entrepreneur's campus ShiftPgh and the multi-state tech marketing initiative RustBuilt, it's that journey more than the ultimate destination that shapes leaders.
"My definition of leadership is leading by action. I like to tell people what I'm doing rather than what I'm going to do," he said.
Mr. Mueller, 39, has made it his mission to support and foster tech leaders in the southwestern Pennsylvania region ever since returning from a stint in Chicago in 2011. As a first step in 2012, he co-organized Pittsburgh Startup Weekend and kicked off the RustBuilt initiative to encourage all former Rust Belt states to highlight their technology businesses and initiatives.
While there's no guarantee any business will succeed in or out of Pittsburgh, there's little that gets under Mr. Mueller's skin more than a can't-do attitude. Unfortunately, he says he sometimes runs into entire groups in the region that choose not to think positively.
He applauded the wide variety of products coming out of local tech startups. However, he said an attitude that the grass is greener everywhere outside of Pittsburgh can push entrepreneurs seeking to grow to find both encouragement and capital for their businesses elsewhere.
"We're doing so many things right now," he said. "People need to look around and get a lot more connected to what's here."
Noting that the region's negative thinkers are easily outnumbered by optimistic entrepreneurs and investors, Mr. Mueller also made it clear that emerging leaders shouldn't fear the idea of failure. In some cases his failures, which he said were "too many to name," have given him vital information to pass along to aspiring entrepreneurs.
"I've bumped my head against enough walls to know what not to do again for myself, so now that I work alongside entrepreneurs, I can help them build their companies by avoiding the same mistakes," he said.
One of the biggest mistakes he advises all entrepreneurs to avoid is hesitation. Regardless of whether an idea is brand new or years in the making, Mr. Mueller said the most important step for emerging leaders is to hit the ground running and take responsibility for whatever comes next, good or bad.
"Ideas are fleeting, action is everything," he said.
"This is not a job, this is a career, this is a way of life. You have to have resiliency from the get go. When your teeth are chipped from being kicked in too many times, you have to remember that all success is a matter of getting back up."
-- Deborah M. Todd: email@example.com or 412-263-1652