Skip to content

Leading by Example: The Power of Equipping Others with Mike Reynolds

When Mike Reynolds, CEO of Innovatemap, faced his first formal leadership role, he learned that leading with a mandate doesn’t work. Instead, he discovered the power of equipping others and influencing through example.

In this episode, Mike shares the mental shift he’s had to make as his company grows. Listen in to learn what it means to lead with your brain by setting direction, goals, and strategies for your team so they can be successful. Along the way, you’ll hear how Mike now derives pride from seeing others be great as he steps away from doing the work himself.

After You Listen:

Key Takeaways:

  • Influencing people is a key part of leadership, make sure you know how to rally and inspire others
  • Equip others with the information they need to do their best
  • Utilize coaches to overcome obstacles and reach the next level of success

Things to listen for:

[02:03] Lightning round with Mike

[04:45] Seeing mistakes as opportunities

[08:23] The importance of being able to influence others

[11:08] Flexing your leadership muscle over your doing muscle

[14:34] When to lean on coaches

[17:32] Advice Mike would give to his younger self

[20:32] Craig’s takeaways


[00:00:00] Craig: Welcome to the Accidental Leader Podcast, the only leadership podcast that shows how today’s successful leaders developed the confidence, confidence, and calm to lead their team and organization to success. I’m Craig Anderson and my career journey is a tale of accidental leadership. I started out with a degree in English and a growing comic book collection, and my plan was to be a high school teacher, but what we plan and what happens aren’t always the same thing.

A college job turned into a career in education finance. An entry level in my alma mater became over time increasing leadership roles in Fortune 500 companies, including many national leadership roles. As that chapter closed, I spun off a business from a large operating not-for-profit, and grew that into a successful business that was named a great place to work in Indianapolis.

Over my career, I’ve learned a lot of leadership lessons the hard way I created this podcast so you don’t have.

My guest today is Mike Reynolds, c e o of Innovate Map. Mike, welcome to the Accidental Leader Podcast.

[00:01:06] Mike Reynolds: thanks for having me, Craig. It’s great to be here.

So before we jump into the lightning round, tell us a bit about Innovate Map and the work that you do, Yeah, so Innovate Map is a digital product agency. when I say digital product, think of uh, SaaS software, mobile apps. Websites and, our agency is the strategy and design side of that. So we’ll partner with founders and tech companies to help them do that well. So it could be, you know, you’re building a, a picture, an app on your phone, and we’ll do the design of that.

[00:01:36] Mike Reynolds: But we’re not just painters. We’ll think through what’s the right feature set and what’s the right experience. we also do the go to market of these products. So, uh, we basically help companies, and their digital product resonate with a user and resonate with a buyer. So half my team is focused on helping resonate with a user, the strategy and design side of that.

And then the other half is, brand and product marketers helping sales and marketing teams convey the value of that product. Awesome. Well, all right, are you ready? We always like to jump right in and get the energy up with the



All right, here we go. Question one. What is the best leadership book you have ever read?

[00:02:13] Mike Reynolds: Yeah. This, so this is a tough one. I, I mean, there’s great practitioner books like In My Craft, uh, inspired by Marty Kagan is, is like the book. For my craft. when I think about leadership books, I, my, my mind just keeps gravitating ironically to podcasts. I’m more of a podcast person than book reader, if that’s fair.

Like most of my book reading is, you know, I’ll, I’ll download it to Audible and listen as I’m walking. So I, yeah. the Naval Podcast, n A V A L has probably given. some of the best leader advice or perspective. I mean, to twist you with a non-book answer, but

[00:02:56] Craig: We allow slight breaking of the

[00:02:58] Mike Reynolds: Okay.

That’s good then.

[00:03:01] Craig: All right, question number two, who is your leadership crush?

I mean there’s probably, leaders at a national level, but I, I have always been a fan of locally of, two people come to mind. bill Godfrey, he was the c e O of a Primo. really a first leader, just the way he went about that and, You know, bill, bill certainly has been a hero that comes to mind.

[00:03:22] Mike Reynolds: I’ve tried to emulate things that I thought he did very well, but then obviously make it my own. also locally a fan of a Jack Carve Lightbound both these people were not only heroes to me, but mentors to me. And, I, I certainly like sighting them. They’re local examples of people I really.

How they’ve always gone about their business. they were all people first, and that’s something I’ve tried to emulate as well.

[00:03:46] Craig: That’s perfect. And they’re people you actually

know, which is a first for us on the podcast, so thank you for that. Okay, last one. And with the influence of the podcast and your leadership crushes in 10 words or less, how do you define leadership?

[00:04:01] Mike Reynolds: Well, so My mind is jumping to my leadership style, which is leadership, is I equip others with the information to allow them to do their best. and that’s kind of my style is very much, um, I’m very transparent with information. I’m open book not just at a business level, but with my expectations and my leadership philosophies.

And then, I think if you’re hiring good people, they’ll do great things if you’re, equipping them with that kind of information.

[00:04:35] Craig: No, that’s, that’s a great answer. a lot of the answers are on leadership are, we provide people with the ability to succeed. Just letting our people

go and. Good things happen. Excellent. Well, we’ll slow it down a little bit now and we’ll get into a little bit of your history.

So we didn’t all start out as CEOs of our company. Well, at least most of us didn’t. So what was your very first leadership role?

so, I’ve been in the working world for about 25 years. you can almost picture the first 10 being a. Technical practitioner. I was a software consultant then. I was a software product manager. and I would say it would be around the time I was 30, I got my real first formal leadership role.

[00:05:18] Mike Reynolds: And I, I’m using the word formal leadership because even when I was a product manager and we were kind of guiding software engineers and what to build, so there’s a lot of informal leadership that I actually found myself not only enjoying, but being pretty decent at. , which then drove me to formal leadership, whether that being a manager, director.

probably at my mid thirties I was, you know, VP of product, at a software company. And, and yeah, so I, I, those were roles where I was leading teams for somebody else’s company, helping those teams achieve the goals that were maybe being set for. and obviously it took a very different turn when I started innovating Matt, but that’s really my first leader, I would say, formal leadership at a software company over teams, in those early leadership roles, how do you feel you did.

I think I did well,

[00:06:08] Mike Reynolds: I would say it, it taught it. I’ll tell you one thing, , if I think about most of the bumps and bruises or, hiccups or, and obviously those are all what the things you learned from the ones that hit home for me were really, people minded.

Like, I love that you said leadership and the definition that we both kind of lined on cuz it’s very different than dictator.

And then I really bought into that le I couldn’t lead a function or lead a team without equipping them or relying on them, you know? And when that was done poorly, let’s say, you know, I had issues with a team member.

I realized that a lot of that not necessarily is their problem. That actually, if you look in a mirror, was an opportunity for me to be a better. give them better direction, give them better, guidance on what to do more of and what to do less of. my very first leadership role, I was a band president and I was an absolute dictator. I was a monster. So ,

[00:06:59] Craig: it’s not the way to get people moving in the way you want ’em to go. It’s definitely about equipping . so that’s interesting though, because that speaks to your mindset. You saw mistake.

as opportunities to be better as opposed to just shutting you down. Is that something you cultivated early on?

[00:07:17] Mike Reynolds: Yeah, I, I won’t give myself enough credit to say that I started with that mentality. but that is, I’ve always kind of been a believer of, I mean, you don’t grow unless you fail. And it’s like, so to me a goal was kinda like fail small.

and I really, I, at this point in my career, I’m a big believer in this, you know, it’s, it’s, you don’t always win.

[00:07:36] Mike Reynolds: I, I’m a coach on the side, and one of my favorite quotes from my teams is sometimes you win, sometimes you learn. You never lose if you have that attitude. And I really do believe that, you know, so like, I’ll, I’ll stay on the coaching analogy. We might lose a game and be like, all right, what did we learn?

and I, I translate that certainly to work into the professional environment, which is, you’re not gonna do everything right. And I definitely don’t believe in a punitive culture where you’re just focusing on the wrong. The wrongs to me, are just opportunities to learn.

[00:08:09] Mike Reynolds: And, uh, so I’m very numb to failure. I do view it as opportunity.

[00:08:13] Craig: Excellent. that is a huge mindset that is worth having as a new leader because you are going to make

mistakes. There’s no getting around it, so if you think back tothose lessons that you learned, those failures, what was the toughest leadership lesson you learned in those early leadership roles?

the biggest one isThe dictatorship style does not work.

I know you were very vulnerable admitting that, that you were a, a monster or whatever you said, but I, it, it, it really sparked a lot of bad memories when you said that in my early career when I was, first time manager or, and, that kind of style.

was not gonna get, uh, the right reaction that was not gonna fall well on people, was not gonna be a motivator of people, you know? So most of these failures, I would say is when I led with that style. and when I say failure, what it meant, I didn’t get the business world I was hoping to get, or I got very nasty interactions with a team member that I did actually like and was probably a very strong team member.

[00:09:14] Mike Reynolds: You know what I mean?

there are some roles where people have to follow you because you have a title, but it’s not a long-term way to get the whole group moving forward,

[00:09:21] Craig: if that’s the only reason they

[00:09:23] Mike Reynolds: Yeah. And Craig, the one thing that I had as an advantage, and I won’t, uh, it’s hard to describe if you don’t know the world of software, my early career I was on software teams. for software companies, but my role was a product role. And I’ll, I’ll quickly make this point to illustrate what the, the lesson learned.

Will the product people figure out what should be built and then the coders, the technology people, they make sure it’s built well. And so my vision or my goals had to get done through team members that didn’t report to me. So the technology team members, so in software, be the coders, they all reported up through the head of development or the head of.

And so I had to, and then this is before I actually had a formal leadership. What I’m saying is my experience, I had to get good at informal leadership and influence and rallying people without the title and without the, The carrot would if the accountability of it, you have to do this cuz you report to me.

and that really started to strengthen a muscle of influence and leadership and, directing others with, a style versus a mandate. that’s such a great lesson to learn early on that influencing people is such a key part of leadership, and you learn it when you have to get people doing things who don’t have to do what you say

[00:10:41] Mike Reynolds: Yeah. I’ll use sports analogies a lot of times cuz people can relate to that. But it’s like, you might be more of a team captain than a manager. And the team captain has informal leadership versus, like a manager has on, there’s a level of authority and rank.

they can get away with bad leadership at times because people have to, that, that applies to the working world. And I just kind of translate into my example. my craft or profession as a product manager, was much more of a team captain. I had to lead an influence and none of these people reported me.

I love it. I love it. Well, well, let’s move forward

[00:11:16] Craig: Now, Now, today, c e o of Innovate Map. how does your role work as leader today? we’re now at a size, where I’m definitely having to, work on leadership muscle more than doing muscle. When I started the company, when it was just me, when it was a just small team, I could lead by example. I wanted to be the hardest worker, put in the most time.

and now it’s much more challenging. It’s also, I, I’m, I’m up for the challenge, but it’s, it’s leading with my brain, . It’s like, I think one, one of my executive coaches said at this phase, we get paid for, you know, what we do neck up, and so for, to me it’s a lot of things like, setting vision, setting direction. and then making the expectations or goals very clear so that others can not only follow, but at this phase. So we’re, you know, we’re about 35 people in, in, in size. I’ve got heads of functions, and they’ve got teams, and so I’ve gottaset direction for them.

[00:12:21] Mike Reynolds: And that’s the value I have to set vision and direction so that they can then come up with projects and tactics for their team that help move that.

[00:12:30] Craig: Interesting. And it’s getting things done through other

people now. You used to be able to make things happen. Now you’ve got to have them happen through the influence that you

have as a leader,

[00:12:43] Mike Reynolds: And if I thinkabout it, am I still leading by example? Yes. But I would say the example that you would, I hope emulate by watching me is the way I’m treating people. So it’s almost like I have to lead by example with the way I’m treating people.

But my actual leadership is not so much the doing work as much as it is setting. Directions or goals or strategies, I may have to be very forward looking, if you will.

so as you sit now, as as a CEO in that level of leadership, what’s the most surprising thing when you’re in that? The big chair of a. Company of 35 people with a lot of customers and clients, you have to deliver for what? What’s that feel like?

it feels great, but it feels great because I have people I can trust. Where it has not felt great is when, we’re. Are trying something new or, but like, um, I have found myself learning to derive a great deal of pride from seeing others do great like that that’s interesting to me.

or in the early days, I did all the selling for Innovate Map, right. And so, you know, like I would. Know what the scorecard was, I would feel good about my own performance, but now just I don’t do that anymore. We have other team members worried about, client success, delivering value to clients, bringing in the next new client, and, when they’re successful, I just am like proud. I’m proud. there was a journey. I’m, I’m fast forward a whole journey where like I struggled to let go of.

and whether, and for me, my team is great. So it was less, it was more, inward focused than trust focused. I knew they’re great, they’re gonna do great things. It’s just like, then what was my new identity if I wasn’t doing that?

[00:14:34] Mike Reynolds: You know what I mean? I took a little bit of pride on being the expert at this and the expert at that. Now I’m empowering someone else to be in charge of, or the expert at that I, I trust they’re gonna do a great job, but now what do I do? And so there, I’ve definitely been on that journey of trying to scale myself as a.

As our business has grown in scale.

and you mentioned before executive coach, what was the trigger that you said, boy, I could use some help in this,

[00:14:58] Mike Reynolds: I would say anytime. it would be either when it points and I recommend coaches. nobody is without the need. I mean, even the Tom Brady, the best quarterback, I still have a coach, right? you could always benefit from someone challenging your tactics or helping you think differently.

and so I, I just always enjoy a coach. For me, when I’ve hired him, have been either two, two scenarios. one might be I’m. I am, I’m stuck with thought. I’m stuck with where to go. I maybe I’m, most of the time I’m stuck with I don’t know how to solve this thing, right? And I, I am gonna welcome people who are gonna give me thoughts, a thought partner, things like that.

[00:15:38] Mike Reynolds: So, I’ve leaned on a coach when I’m stuck, Hey, I need help. You use any element of life, right? Professional sports, personal, when you’re stuck, that could help you break through. And the other time I’ve needed a coach is when I’ve wanted to go next.

right? A lot of times a really good coach isn’t all about fixing problems, but actually helping, raise the capacity.

your capacity. I don’t mean time, capacity, I mean your mental capacity, the way you see things. and so whether I wanted to, maybe go next level, and then my growth there. Of elevating my thinking would then actually translate to how I’m leading the company and ideally elevate the company.

[00:16:18] Mike Reynolds: So whether I was stuck or I was longing for next level thinking, those were two moments where I was like, Hey, little lonely, lonely with my thoughts here. Or I need some new ideas. I need some new thinking. and that’s what you know, a lot of people, to your earlier question, a lot of people read a book, A lot of people listen to podcasts.

a lot of people have conversations. my personality likes convers. , so I’ll reach out to coaches or peers or other CEOs or leaders that I respect and I’ll, have dialogue. And really the reason I gravitate to dialogues is I like hearing their experiences,

versus, you know, a book will give you theory and you can apply those theories, but I also like to compliment theory with, experiences.

sure. It’s one of the things I always say is, a lot of people, problems feel new to us or feel like new, and no one’s ever had it before, but they’re usually just new to us. Somebody in our experience has dealt with

so, it’s so true, through my journey, certainly at Innovate Map, we’re in our ninth year and that is so true. when I was starting Innovate Map, the help I needed was starting a company help. I was the first student I ever started. And so the books I was reading, the conversation I was having were all about how do you start a business and then survive.

[00:17:28] Mike Reynolds: And then then you kind of arrive and now there’s new problems where it’s like, now how do I hire and grow? Well, I’m not the first person to start a company. I’m not first person to grow a company. And so it, it is new to you, but then it has always marveled me as I get in these conversation that it is very, It is very common in the wild that there are other human beings who have been through a similar thing, and I could benefit from their experience.

so speaking of that, if you could go back in time to Mike Reynolds in those early leadership

[00:18:02] Craig: roles. ,what is the one piece of advice you would give him that would help the most?

this might sound a little too rosy or optimistic, but like, there aren’t necessarily things that I would do differently because the mistakes made me who I am today. So I don’t wanna, like, you know, are there things that you regret?

[00:18:24] Mike Reynolds: Sure. . so my advice, my advice if I were to go back would be, patience. I was a pretty young achiever, school and professional. I, I was very, What’s the scoreboard? I want to beat it.

I’ve been very blessed that, later in life leaning on others, I’ve been very fortunate, very blessed. Good things have happening to me, but I, I would tell myself to just, Hey, you know, lighten up, chill out, be patient. This is all gonna be good. just treat people well and always move forward.

[00:18:55] Craig: it’s so hard to have perspective when you’re young,

[00:18:58] Mike Reynolds: oh,

[00:18:59] Craig: and it is a tricky thing to say, What would I tell that young person? Because all those experiences made me successful today.

[00:19:07] Mike Reynolds: Yeah, and I the thought of another one, and I’m don’t mean to carry on the question, but I definitely would tell myself, continue to believe in yourself.

I would say early on I paid a little bit too much attention to. The criteria or the scoreboard of what success for Mike would look like. And that was all defined by other people.

And I, I certainly went many, many years with a goal of pleasing them or meeting that scoreboard. And then I did have an enlightenment mid thirties where I really, really started to believe in myself. And that obviously gave me the courage to then start a company because at that point I, I was betting on.

I, uh, probably would just get, go back and give myself a pep talk to just trust yourself, be who you are and believe in yourself versus the, external scoreboard on whether you’re good at what you do or not.

that’s actually an interesting question. Maybe I should switch it up to what’s the moment you would go back to, to tell yourself a, as a young leader, it’s gonna be all right. Just keep working

[00:20:10] Craig: through it. That would be an interesting question. So, well, Mike, this has been great.

Thank you for sharing both the story of your leadership journey and the great work you’re doing at Innovate Map. If people wanna learn more about you or follow you, where are the best places for them to to

connect?uh, LinkedIn’s the best one professionally. I’m. Decently active, but I would say my company is most active. So I would say certainly follow, innovate Map, on LinkedIn and social channels.

[00:20:38] Mike Reynolds: We are very active with thought leadership. It’s very important to me that we, that you give that back, that we don’t hoard this information or these lessons that we learn, you know? And so, um, yeah, so, so LinkedIn’s probably the best one. Both myself and the company Innovate.

Mike, thank you so much for being on the podcast today.

[00:20:56] Mike Reynolds: Craig, it was a, it was an honor and a delight. Great conversation. I appreciate it.

[00:21:02] Craig: As always on the Accidental Leader Podcast, I’d like to leave you with three takeaways from our conversation, and there was some great stuff to be learned from Mike Reynolds today. I wanna frame these for you in the three crucial leadership areas of confidence, confidence, and calm. And when I think of how Mike talked about confidence, one of the things he mentioned was the importance of bringing in a coach when you are stuck or when you are ready to level up and you need support to get there.

That is such a crucial way for you to build confidence, is to realize you don’t have to do it all by yourself. So building up your confidence through support of others as well as how we talked about reaching out to colleagues and leaders that he respected. These are the ways that you can build your confidence on confidence.

What was so important in our discussion was how he talked about leading by example and equipping others to do their best. That’s how you’re gonna get the most out of your team. Set the right example. Everything flows down from you as the leader. give people the resources and the things they need to execute and then get out of the way.

And then finally, in the area of calm, the advice he would go back to give his younger self believe in. And be patient. That’s something that is so important on your leadership journey, is to keep that confidence and belief in yourself and realize that things will come with time. You just have to keep moving forward.

So again, thanks Mike for that interview today. We really enjoyed it. Are youan accidental leader looking to level up yourself? Well, I would invite you to one of my seminars coming up soon on how to have difficult conversations that you’re avoiding in your business so that you can focus on accomplishing the mission for your business.

You can register for slash seminar. get yourself registered and really start to build that confidence. You need to be the leader you aspire to be. Thanks for listening and remember, leaders aren’t born, they’re made. And you can go from the an accidental leader to the greatest of all time leader.

It just takes confidence, confidence and calm. See you next time.