Leadership is all about the impact you make in the world and the people you are able to help with your vision. Business coach, Emi Kirschner maximizes this impact by building a tribe of leaders, teaching them how to be like her – a visionary who combines a knack for generating brilliant ideas with a genuine desire to help other people. Emi is the host of the Tribe of Leaders podcast, where she interviews successful entrepreneurs who share how they have developed their leadership skills through the success and challenges of growing through business. She also has an academy for young entrepreneurs where she teaches young people how to write a business plan and pitch to investors. Whether it’s in teaching corporate leaders, seventh graders or her own daughters, Emi’s passion in making her own mark in the world by helping others make theirs is undeniable. Listen to her share her story and lessons in this conversation with Jeffrey Edwards.
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Building A Tribe Of Visionary Leaders With Emi Kirschner
It’s wonderful to be here with you. Thank you for joining us here. As I often mentioned, anytime we get to have a guest in the show, it’s an honor and a privilege to have people who are here to share their knowledge and wisdom with you. It’s where I stand here and be with you is a result of many people who’ve helped me get to this point in time. This guest that we have is one of those individuals who are out there making a huge difference in the world and the lives of many professionals at all levels, from elementary school all the way to their adults. Let me introduce you to our guest. She’s an investor, a serial entrepreneur, a coach, international speaker, and she combines her intuitive abilities with her analytical sense to help driven entrepreneurs become the visionary CEO of a business resulting in doubling revenue.
She is an expert in implementing strategy, long-term plans, increasing productivity, and performance while reducing stress. She increases sales by maximizing process and lead capture. She helps individuals, organizations, and business people with building and developing value-centered mission-driven teams. She’s the host of the Tribe of Leaders podcast where she interviews successful entrepreneurs who share how they have developed their leadership skills through the success and challenges of growing through business. That’s not enough let me add more to this. She has an Academy for young entrepreneurs and she instructs twelfth graders on how to write a business plan and pitch to investors. How many of you would love to meet her in grade seventh? I know I will love that time. When she’s not traveling, she enjoys kicking back in many local shops and she’s based in Philadelphia. She is a force. She has a tribe of leaders out there. It’s a pleasure to have her here, Emi Kirschner. Emi, how are you?
I am fantastic. Thank you. That is the best introduction I’ve ever had. I’m grateful.
You make it easy to share. I look at this and I go, “What does this woman not do in terms of impact, support, and influence out there in the world?” It’s truly inspirational.
I don’t do tiny detail work. That’s what I don’t do.
For our readers, a little bit of background. How did you get to where you are? What was it that inspired you to go down this road of working with entrepreneurs and being that resource for them?
First of all, my path is probably the windiest path anybody’s ever taken. That being said, I’m an idea generator, and I have been since probably grade school but high school is when I remember having my first ideas and not knowing what to do with them at that point. If you combine that with a complete desire to avoid work, then you fall into the role of being an entrepreneur where you pay more than a 9:00 to 5:00 job. That being said, it stems from wanting to help people. I’ve done that in a number of different ways over the years and my passion has been and become helping entrepreneurs because I love the ripple effects that it creates.
I get to help a few people. They help their people and I feel like I get to touch the lives of thousands if not millions even though it’s indirect because of the work I do with helping each entrepreneur. One, make more money, become more profitable, but it’s more than that. The money is great, who doesn’t want more money? It’s about feeling satisfied in helping other people, having fun, enjoying and loving what they’re doing, and showing up in a bigger way.
When we talk about on this show, the messages around leadership, I’m sure you can attest you deal with all ages from young to old, how do you define leadership in the context of your world and the people that you work with?
Part of why I started the Tribal of Leaders podcast and my community is that I wanted people to understand that you don’t have to be the president, Mother Teresa, or some huge well-known figure, the Dalai Lama to be a leader. Everybody is a leader if they choose to be. For me, it comes down to a number of core values, it’s having the integrity, it’s wanting to help others make that impact, being authentic, owning who you are, and wanting to pull people along with you and creating communities where everybody can up-level together. That’s one of the most powerful things.Learn to fail; don’t fail to learn. Click To Tweet
Is there someone that comes to mind to you that stands out from the work you’ve done that exemplifies what you shared there in terms of making that impact and who may have not even thought originally that they could, or it was even possible for them?
I want to think about somebody who isn’t well-known to keep it small. I’ve had a number of coaches that have created incredible communities and allowed the people that they’re working with to grow and expand. The two that come to mind are Iman and Afrin Khan. They’re the co–owners of Red Elephant Inc. They do a number of different things with business coaching but they started with how to sell from stage speaking. It was unbelievable because they’re warm and they created a family environment for 200 people and that takes a little practice. It wasn’t about getting up on stage and hock your stuff, it’s how do you create the connection and the trust in the relationship and the authenticity. That’s what makes our program successful
Over time when you take a look at where people are on their journey and the professional journey that there’s always a learning curve. There are things that there are gaps in what they need. What would you consider to be those three foundational skills that all successful or effective leaders need to have or we ought to focus on developing further?
One is learning that failure is okay and that they want to set themselves and their people up for failure. I refer to myself as a democratic dictator with my kids because I was a single mom. I parented differently and I gave my kids a lot of independence early on and the opportunity to mess it up purposefully. I got them ATM cards as soon as they were old enough to have one and let them stay alone earlier than some people but within boundaries so that I could guide them through the mistakes and similarly with any leader, one is pushing themselves. You hear a lot of buzz about that, but putting the people you’re leading in a place to mess up, so you can show them without it being right or wrong, it’s a better way to do it. It’s to help them understand how they can come into their independence authentic so that they can make better decisions.
I have spoken to that as well and I even say it to myself like, “You’ve got to be able to fail.” It is hard sometimes when you think that there’s a lot of emotion wrapped up in that. In this environment where you have to go online and in social media, you’re seeing how everyone’s doing everything well or supposedly well. You might feel like you’re falling behind versus moving forward.
You don’t want to measure by anybody else’s pace or journey because they’re not in the same place even if you’re doing the same thing. It doesn’t matter. You’re here to learn and to share with your people whatever it is that you’re here to learn and share. Do your own thing.
Would that be number two, address failure, and do your own thing?
Let’s go with that because if you’re comparing yourself to other people and what’s working for them particularly from the standpoint of whatever is being posted on social media, that’s not an accurate representation. You don’t know what’s going on in their world, in their head, their backstory. What’s happened to them many years ago, that got them here or even the random occurrences that happened to all of us that can either create huge leaps in the success or create instantaneous failure. When you’re looking at it from a neutral place, it’s the learning experience. Get centered with who you are and what you want and your values are, your crazy weird, badass, and sparkly self. Do that because your people are going to flock to that instead of you trying to be like somebody else.
You’ve mentioned before that there are lots of different skills for leaders to have. What would be another one that stands out for you in relation to someone who is starting on their own and trusting into that new role of leadership?
I’m going to point this to my kids. They’ve taught me so much about leadership because when I was first divorced, I knew what I wanted to do and who I was, but I was like, “How do I show my kids that they can do anything?” The only way for me to do that is to show up and be who I am. Also, as a single mom, I had little support. My ex-husband moved a couple of hours away for a new job. He wasn’t around. I had moved houses and rebuilding friendships and connections, etc. I’m a neat freak, for the most part, there’s a certain level and I don’t handle a lot of cluttery mess well. I’ll preface the story with that.
The kids were boys and they had Legos all over the place and video games. It was a weekend and I’m like, “This needs to get cleaned up.” The way I approached it was we have two options here and this wasn’t a onetime conversation because they were 10 and 12. This was a multiple-time conversation. I was like, “If you want to go do something fun on the weekend, we got to clean up altogether. I’m not doing it all or if you want me to do it all then, you can sit here and we’ll go do fun stuff.”
That created a flow and teamwork where we have each other’s back all the time. It’s been cool because here they are at 19 and 21. They’re both living with me temporarily due to the COVID situation. There’s no conversation about simple things of who’s making dinner, who’s doing the dishes, taking the dogs out, we all do it. We all take turns and it works. I know that it’s simple, but when you create open conversations and you set that this is the goals that we can do the fun stuff, or this is the goal to reach this project and you’re in there with your team members or your community, you’re creating a fluid movement that everybody gets what they need and is supported. That’s important too.
The way you describe it sounds like it’s still creating a common experience in which everyone shares in its development and in the outcome as well.
It’s been cool that we’ve had dinner with some of my girlfriends and they automatically pitch in like nobody has to ask them and that’s what you want. It’s like, “I’m doing the yucky task too so it’s not like I’ve stepped out of that.” As the leader, you’ve got to empty the trash cans and do the filing when it’s the appropriate moment so that we’re getting the thing done. We’re driving results home.
Do you still have to worry about Lego lying around as an adult? I see adults playing Lego too.
Matthew is a builder. He makes furniture and he’s going to school for woodworking. I did send him last Christmas to go buy Legos because I had gotten rid of all of them when I moved to downsize significantly. He was good. He kept him on the cookie trays but we did have a lego experience.
You never outgrow Lego, that’s for sure.
We had probably hundreds of thousands, like ten years of Lego purchases, small little ones, the giant things, everything in between. I’m like, “I should have got this.” At least a gallon size zip lock bag or something.
One thing that stood out for me as I was listening to the dynamics you shared with your sons is you also being a single mother. Doing the work when you take a look in terms of how you see yourself as a role model to other women and girls in growing up, how do you embrace that reality?
I’m just me. There’s nothing super pretentious. I love getting into the nitty-gritty and down and dirty with people. I’m always curious about why people do certain things or what their experiences are. For me, both from a kid perspective because I get along well with kids in general, but especially in junior high and teenage kids because I treat them like people like, “What do you think about A, B, and C?” I’ll use their language or mirror some of that. From that perspective and for other moms, I’m like, “I did this and who knows if it’ll work for you?”The more money you make, the more good you can do and the more impact you can make. Click To Tweet
There’s no pressure. I’m sharing ideas that worked for me. There’s no judgment around whether or not you take my idea. I’m also not pushing. It’s more of the conversation of, “If it works for you, this is what I did with my kids.” One of the biggest things that I’ve seen a lot of other people do or be able to implement is I’m like, “No, I’m not putting up with that.” My kids had a ton of independence. They were not given a lot of rules, but I had a hard line and they knew never to cross the line.
I’m feeling that as you share it.
I like to do things that are fun. I like to share ideas and connect with people. The curiosity part is, how can I be getting this person’s space or level or not think like them but understand them in a way that I can offer them something of value.
As you go out to look at society, you’re looking at being that person. You’re an entrepreneur. You’re also being a woman entrepreneur as well. You recognize that there’s a whole dynamic around that and there’s a culture around that. What do you see as your role or contribution in that space?
A lot of us have more women than men are getting women to be okay with their numbers and with money that across the board, in my space, particularly with more creative entrepreneurs is the places where women are like, “I don’t deserve to earn this much. I want to earn enough for Susie to go to college for us to take a vacation.” They’re limiting themselves. They’re like, “I don’t know how to do bookkeeping. I don’t understand financial projections and it’s too hard.” I get it because, at fifth grade, Mr. Williams was telling me repeatedly that I couldn’t do the math and that played out for a long time until I had to do five-year financial projections with three investors and I was like, “I know how to do algebra now as a grownup.” Even beyond that, I took a conversation with a friend of mine for me to have it sink in.
The study showed that women generally speaking are better investors than men because we’ll ask for help. We’re less emotional about it. We think about things longer. If I can have more women feel empowered about their money, both from making financial decisions and making more money in their business because the bottom line is the more money you make, the better you can do, the more impact you can make. I posted something on Facebook about women want to do X, Y, and Z and instead of that, think about doing that and something else. Starting the charity or the foundation, or sending somebody else’s kid to college or taking all of your friends on vacation or whatever it is, it could be anything but think bigger and that allows opportunity and space for all of those things to come in.
How often do you ask yourself when you come across that scenario where there’s a limitation on where people see where they can go?
All the time, every day. That’s a natural human condition. This particular area is the thing that I feel most passionate about because it’s the area that once we remove it can open up huge places for people to grow and experience new things.
You’ve mentioned that you have your podcast Tribal of Leaders, describe what the experience of being a member of the tribe is? Is there a special headdress I wear? Are there things I should be wearing out? Tell me more about it.
I love glitter. Everybody should have some glitter or sparkles. There are no requirements. The podcast is about different entrepreneurs, their stories of success and failures, growing their business and how that has impacted their leadership. What they’ve learned from it? In the Facebook community, the Tribe of Leaders is a cool group of mostly creative entrepreneurs with some people doing different things, which I love to diversity. There’s training. There’s support. There’s networking in there. You’d see my shining face from time to time either including lives or giving interviews. It’s a place that I wanted to create for people who are starting their leadership journey to come and fast track their business. I’m sure you’ve had the same experience where you’re like, “If I know to fill in the blank six months ago or three weeks ago, I would have saved hours, days, months, or money.”
The question that comes from hearing what you’ve been doing and continuing to do this is that the question of legacy. Every visionary leader there’s a destination, there’s an impact that they want to make a new world. What would you say would be the legacy that you’re building?
It’s three things. One that’s helping these entrepreneurs. It’s creating that ripple effect that I had shared with you about having these entrepreneurs become more profitable and see new opportunities in a way that they wouldn’t have otherwise. I’m still focused on my kids even though they’re essentially grown up. They’re still watching. We still work together. What I’m doing has to be integrity so that they can either mirror and/or be like, “It doesn’t work for me so I’m going to choose something else.” Longer-term, one of my goals is to start a foundation here in Philadelphia to eradicate poverty and improve the education system.
Awesome work and awesome legacy as well. I look forward to seeing that unfold for you, Emi. You are influencing people, entrepreneurs, the future, and now as well. What do you say to yourself? When you look at what you’ve accomplished up to this point, the people you’ve influenced and the ripple effect that you’ve put out there in the world, what do you say? What thoughts come to mind to you or where you saw yourself maybe 10 or 20 years ago?
Coming into my 40s, I had no clue like this whole decade has been about exploring me and “growing into myself.” Looking back, I’m like, “I have learned so much.” I’m excited about that and I have much more to do. That part is cool. I’m always looking at what’s next for me or what I can create or who I can talk to. I’m in that inquiry like, “There’s something else that’s big that I’m supposed to be doing. What does that look like?” I’m going to have to let you know when I have the answer.
I look forward to that and I look forward to having that conversation with you as well. I want to thank you for being here. I’ve learned more about you and I’m excited for you and your success going forward. I look forward to following up with you. Emi, thank you and thank the audience as we wrap up.
I’m going to share my favorite quote, which is from Dalai Lama and that’s, “The point of life is happiness.” It’s simple but we lose touch with that.
It’s the simplest messages that seem to have the greatest impact as well. Thank you, Emi, and thank you for joining us here. We look forward to sharing time with you next time in the show and check out the podcast. Until then, be good and lead well.