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Three Leadership Tips from Sci Fi Author Brandon Sanderson

By Jacquelyn Adams

I don’t know about you, but science fiction writers aren’t generally at the top of my list when I think of great examples of leadership. But recently, Brandon Sanderson, author of The Stormlight Archive and The Mistborn Saga series, displayed skills which demonstrated that he is not just a cosmic genius in creating fantasy worlds, but also has mad leadership skills.

For those who aren’t a part of the Sanderson super geek fan club, he wrote four “secret” books at the beginning of the pandemic for fun and for his family. At his wife’s urging, he decided to share them with his fans through Kickstarter. While his funding goal was one million dollars, in the end, it exceeded forty-one million dollars. In gratitude for his success, he decided to pay it forward by supporting other publications on Kickstarter. And while there is a place for writing a check to support a cause, Sanderson said forget that and went into full-on rockstar leadership mode. He invested his time, offered financial support based on quality and need, and leveraged his platform in the end.

1. Investing Time

Sanderson started it all off by sitting down with his team of six others, and researching the more than 300 publications on Kickstarter. This was shared in a time-lapse video of them researching and vetting every publication project on Kickstarter. Firstly, they wanted to confirm that all supported projects were safe and none had slipped through Kickstarters guidelines. Additionally, they looked at the time remaining for sponsorship and the quality of the project. This was so much more than a one-size-fits-all approach to offering support. The individuals on Sanderson’s team invested their time to ensure that each contribution was tailored to the need and/or perceived value of the individual publication.

2. Backing Financially (as deemed appropriate)

While the Brandon Sanderson parody series featuring cats only received a $1 donation and a good laugh (as it was a gag and not an authentic Kickstarter), Sanderson really did put his money where his mouth was and backed more than 300 publications. As noted above, each contribution was unique. If a project was running out of time, then there were cases where he completed their funding. Or there were some publications that he thought were especially interesting and chose a higher tier of investment — getting a signed copy or other perks. One case, in particular, was Kami Koala Makes a Decision. It only had 27 hours left for people to back it, which meant it wouldn’t benefit from publicity in Sanderson’s time-lapse video. Since this was the case and he saw that merit in the book, he backed the $1,000 that was still needed. The added bonus was that the author had designated that extra books would go to children in foster care, so Sanderson’s generosity was immediately paid forward, as well. If that doesn’t give you the warm fuzzies all around, I don’t know what will.

3. Sharing the Platform

Finally, Sanderson used his platform as a means of compounding his investment. Some people had a negative spin on this, saying he was just publicizing what a good person he is. However, as a writer myself, I absolutely see the value in Sanderson sharing his platform. Getting financial backing is great, and the publicity of having Brandon Sanderson talk about your project is priceless. As I previously said, he shared his time-lapse video as an update to his followers. At certain points, the time-lapse switched over to real-time so fans could hear them discuss books that they thought were especially noteworthy, like Kami Koala. So while Sanderson encouraged viewers to peruse the 300+ books for themselves, he did share what he thought some of the highlights were. This ranged from poetry to educational materials to fantasy stories written and illustrated by children, and each one was given its own time to shine on Sanderson’s platform.

So, there you have it: three steps on how to lead like a boss. To me, his example was perfection. He invested the time to know the individual projects well, customized his support, and gave better support than just funding ever could by sharing his platform. Again, we can’t always go into this detail of support. Sometimes it will just be financial support, or being forced to realize that there are too many causes and we don’t have enough resources. When it comes to our true heart projects, I think he gave us the perfect example of buying in completely. What do you think? Let me know in the comments if you know if you would add any additional steps or examples you’ve witnessed of others leading like a boss.


Jacquelyn Adams

Jacquelyn Adams, founder and CEO of Ristole, uses her column to delve into the wild world of leadership. Whether the article is about her days as a Peace Corp volunteer, exploring corporate training, or even grabbing lunch at Chipotle — she will come out with a story and her “top tips.” As she passionately believes in leveraging her platform to share others’ voices, her column welcomes guest bloggers to create a fuller and more diverse pool of experiences for her readership. So, welcome to “Lessons on Leadership” where you never know what the next article will hold: online networking advice, guidelines for creating a joyful workplace, or even puppies. Just keep reading to discover what’s next!

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